Time Lord Tees

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10 September 2013

Doctor Who has picked up two awards at this years TV Choice Awards, held at London's Dorchester Hotel.

The first award of the evening for the show was in the Best Drama category, where it beat off competition from Downton Abbey, Waterloo Road and Call The Midwife. 

The second award was for Outstanding Contribution, with Steven Moffat, David Tennant and Peter Davison taking to the stage to accept the award for Doctor Who, with Matt Smith appearing via a specially recorded video message.

On accepting the award, Steven Moffat said:

“I’m receiving an award about Doctor Who from Doctor Who while Doctor Who is busy filming in Cardiff.”

Matt Smith lost out on the Best Actor award, with ex-Doctor, David Tennant winning for his role in Broadchurch.

Jenna Coleman lost out on the Best Actress award, with Miranda Hart winning for her role in Call The Midwife.

[Source: TV Choice]

9 September 2013

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

Day 252: The War Games, Episode Two

Dear diary,

We've spent so much time lately stuck in scientific bases and out on alien worlds that you really do forget just how good the BBC are at creating a historical drama. Every detail of the sets and costumes in the last two episodes has been so spot on that it's a real treat to look at. It also means that when things do start to go a bit strange, and we find video screens built into the walls, they're all the more jarring and carry a much greater impact - because they look so out of place amongst all this period detail.

The locations for the story are lovely, too, especially the buildings around the Doctor's firing squad (of all the times to be admiring architecture!). I grew up on a farm with several buildings in a similar style, so it looks like just the sort of place I used to imagine Doctor Who adventures taking place. Were this a bad episode, details like the sets would be something to help bring it up a point or two in my estimations, but The War Games is still thundering along - the gorgeous design is just a bonus.

No sooner are we out of the cliffhanger to yesterday's episode (a real stunner, too, and another one to consider placing on a list of 'best ever'), than we get another shock reveal in the form of a TARDIS arriving in the General's office. It's key to remember that the last time we saw a TARDIS other than the Doctor's was during The Daleks' Master Plan, and that was over three years ago. It comes as a real shock even, I'm glad to say, to me. It's been so long since I've watched The War Games that I'd remembered these other time machines not turning up until the latter half of the tale. It came as a complete surprise, and that just made the whole thing better.

Then we've got the use of the General's glasses when he's hypnotising people. In yesterday's episode, when they're used to the very first time, it's done as he starts to read some papers. It's all framed as to suggest that the glasses just happened to go on before the need to hypnotise. As the story has gone on, it's become clearer that they're integral to the hypnotism process. It's also great to see Lady Jennifer and Lieutenant Carstairs start to break free of their own brainwashing, having seen it seeded in since their first meeting.

It almost serves to show the impact that the Doctor can have just by turning up somewhere. He's well aware that things aren't quite what they seem to be, but he's still piecing it all together. Meanwhile, his mere presence in this area has brought together two people who may never have met, and caused them to think differently. It's the great strength that this Doctor has displayed many times before and it's good to see it being used one last time before he bows out.

Elsewhere in the episode, Troughton is on absolutely blazing form. When he halts a car simply by standing in the middle of the road and shouting at the driver, it signals the start of one of his best ever performances as he smashes through the next few scenes with his volume control up to maximum. I often find myself quoting the Seventh Doctor when he says that you just need to 'act as if you own the place' to get through unquestioned (indeed, trying that once got me onto the set of a proper Doctor Who episode for a full afternoon as they filmed, but that's a story for another day), and it's this idea that's being shown at its best here.

Wendy Padbury deserves some praise again, too; she's really a brilliant foil for Troughton's Doctor, and after all my musing earlier this season that I'd like to see him traveling alone with her, I'm glad to see that the production team have obviously had similar thoughts, and keep pairing them off. If there's one thing I'm going to miss by the time this story is over, it's the developing relationship between the two.

After all that, we're sent on our way with another stunning cliffhanger, as the ambulance disappears into a strange void of smoke, and then reappears out in the English countryside, ready to be set upon by Romans. Obviously, I know what's going on, but I can only imagine how odd this must have seemed at the time. We've not had a historical story in ages and now there's two for the price of one (and there's even a redcoat thrown in for good measure!). 

9 September 2013

Ex-Doctors, Peter Davison and Sylvester McCoy were spotted outside TVC this morning, next to placards saying "No Doctors. No 50th!" and "Have a heart! Classic Doctors want a part!".

Colin Baker is also reportedly meant to be at the location too, which DWO believe to be for the filming of Peter Davison's tongue-in-cheek short film to commemorate the 50th Anniversary.

Davison has previously recorded a short for the Gallifrey One convention in LA. You can watch the short he recorded for the 2011 convention, below:

DWO will post more on this news as we get it...

[Source: Twitter]

8 September 2013
a Dear diary,

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

Day 251: The War Games, Episode One

Dear diary,

It's May 2006, and I've taken my friend Ben with me to Holt out on the Norfolk coast, where they're having a big Doctor Who celebration. Later that evening we'll settle down to watch The Idiot's Lantern play out on TV, but for now we're stood in the middle of a high street taken over by an attempt to break the world record for the number of Daleks gathered together in one place. I don't think they quite managed it.

Truth be told, the day was a bit rubbish, I seem to recall. Someone had dropped us off there in the morning, and wouldn't be back to collect us for hours. An early highlight was meeting Colin Baker, who surely has to be one of the nicest people ever connected to the series in any way, shape, or form, but then everything else was just a bit naff. There were plenty of stalls selling tat, none of which appealed to me, and I remember spending about an hour sat on a step somewhere while we tried to think of something to do.

The day got considerably better when we found a particular stall that was selling Doctor Who video tapes. It's funny how some things stick in your mind so clearly, but this is one of them. It was quite a small set up, a stall bordered with a rusty metal frame and covered with a blue tarpaulin on three sides and the top. They had loads of tapes spread out on the front desk, with more piled up on those cheap shelving units you can pick up in Argos all along the back. It was heaving with people, and you had to fight your way through the crowd a bit to reach the front and look through the collection.

I'd pooled my money for a few weeks in the hope that I might be able to buy something on this day out, and so far it had remained firmly in my wallet. Suddenly, I had the opportunity to spend it ten times over. All these VHS tapes, all these stories that we're miles away from any kind of DVD release! I can't remember all the ones I looked at - I must have picked up loads while trying to make my decision - but then I caught sight of one particular set up on the top shelf at the back.

The Time Lord Collection. A sturdy cardboard box wrapped around The Three Doctors, which I already had on DVD so wasn't that exciting, The Deadly Assassain, which was supposed to be a really good Tom Baker story in which he fights the Master on Gallifrey, and... no? Surely not? It can't be... a double tape release of The War Games, the epic ten-part Second Doctor story which introduced the TIme Lords to the series and saw Patrick Troughton's departure?!?!

It's strange, in 2013, with only a few DVD releases left before everything is easily available to pick up for a few pounds on Amazon, to explain just how exciting this was. I'd picked up one or two video tapes of the old stories on Ebay over the years, but they were usually the ones that went cheap - and thus weren't the ones with the best of reputations. Indeed, I took a flyer for the company selling the tapes on this day and handed out a highlighted version to family members when they asked what I'd like for my birthday that year.

The War Games had been released in 1990, and then again as part of this box set in about 2002. I think it was a limited edition, but I just wasn't aware of that kind of thing back then. To me, it was simply a chance to own The War Games. This story - mores perhaps than any other - was like a Holy Grail. It's ten episodes long! It's the first introduction of the Time Lords. The Second Doctor regenerates. I could type on for a half a million words and I'd never be able to accurately tell you how thrilling the thought of owning this box set was.

But it was out of my price range. Only by about £10 or so, but still. Thankfully, it was Ben to the rescue. I'd successfully managed to get him into the stuff they were currently showing on TV with David Tennant and Billie Piper, but he had zero interest in any of the old stuff. Indeed, Ben is one of the pair I spoke of during The Tomb of the Cybermen, who'd had the audacity to laugh at the silver giants! Ben stumped up the extra cash (for which I'm still thankful, seven years on) and I purchased this magnificent set.

If anything, it made the last few hours of the day go even slower. Not only had we now been round everything there was to see at this particular day out, but now I was holding a copy of The War Games in my hands, and simply couldn't wait to get home and watch it. I explained to Ben just how important this story was to the history of the series, but I don't think he really cared. I decided that I would ration the story out; no more than one episode a day (that sounds familiar), so that I could really make the most of it. Of course, that all went out the window once I'd gotten it home and put it in the video player because it was fantastic.

And, d'you know what? It still is. I've tried something of an experiment with today's episode, because I happen to be visiting Mum's house at the exact point that I should be sitting down to watch this one. So often throughout the course of the 1960s episodes, I've commented about how different it would have looked on an old telly compared to being on my Mac screen, so today I've hooked up an old VHS player to an old telly (it's from the early 80s, but I think it's about as close as I'm going to get) and popped in the VHS. The DVD is waiting at home for me in freshly restored glory, using better prints than were available to the VHS release, but I planned to have something really insightful and fascinating to say about the process of watching the episode in this way.

And I've completely failed! Because apart from noting that - yes - Patrick Troughton's face does actually look terrifying when you see it emerging from the title sequence on an old CRT screen, I've just been entirely swept up in the story, and I've not made a single other note about the way it looks on this old screen. Typical. If you want, you can pretend that I've said something really interesting here about it all.

Oh, but it is brilliant, this episode, isn't it? Right from the moment we see the TARDIS' materialisation in the reflection of a puddle on the muddy battlefield up to the second the Doctor scrunches up his face before a firing squad and a shot gets fired... every single bit of this episode is sheer brilliance.

I'm surprised to find how pleased I am to see the TARDIS back in history. We've not been anywhere before the 1960s since way back in The Abominable Snowmen, and I didn't think I'd been missing travels back into the past, but actually it feels fresh and different. It's probably helped by being an era that's so close to living memory (even more so on the original broadcast) and it makes it all feel that much more real.

This is especially true of the threat running through the episode. When the Doctor parts company with Zoe to be taken to a cell, he gives her a gentle kiss on the head and mutters 'Goodbye, my dear.' It's a simple moment, but it's so touching. Forget being stuck inside the Kroton's ship, or fighting the Karkus in the Land of Fiction, this is real, and there's an honest sense of danger to it all. The same can be said for the moment that Zoe breaks in to steal the set of keys. It feels far more dangerous than anything else in Season Six has - perhaps more than anything else in the Second Doctor's era. Being somewhere as sombre as the First World War, and being the final story for all three of our regulars, it all feels far, far, more true.

I could rattle on for ages about this episode, and the Doctor Who Online news page would disappear under a wave of my gushing with praise, so I'll stop now. There's another nine days to go with this one, so I'm sure there'll be plenty of time for me to say everything I could possibly want about The War Games.

For now, I'll settle for saying that I'm so happy that the story can produce this kind of emotion in me, all these years later, and having sat through so many other episodes already this year. This one really is something very special indeed.

For now, I'll settle for saying that I'm so happy that the story can produce this kind of emotion in me, all these years later, and having sat through so many other episodes already this year. This one really is something very special indeed. 

7 September 2013

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

Day 250: The Space Pirates, Episode Six

Dear diary,

And just like that, I've run out of missing Doctor Who episodes. It all seems so easy in retrospect, and actually 106 missing episodes doesn't feel like a massive amount when you think about just how many I've actually been able to watch. I sort of suspect that I should have a bit of a celebration or something to celebrate this key milestone, but it's The Space Pirates, so the era of missing episodes goes out with more of a whimper than a bang.

I think part of the problem I've had with the story is that I'm just not all that engaged with the situation. In The Seeds of Death, it felt as though the Doctor and his companions were willing to throw themselves into the line of danger in an attempt to help because they really wanted to do so. Here, the only reason that they're helping anyone is because they've been separated from the TARDIS, and have gotten swept along with events.

It means that when the situation is getting desperate and we're watching a (really long) countdown to an explosion, everything just feels a bit dull. I don't care about the situation, so I'm not that bothered by anything that's happening. It's an interesting feeling in some ways. I always know that the Doctor and his companions are going to get out of the danger (well, unless it's a regeneration story or something like Earthshock), but part of the fun is watching how they make their escape. It's about the Doctor being clever, or his companions being vital. Today, I know that they're not going to get blown up and I don't care how they get out of it, because it boils down to something as mundane (!) as diffusing a bomb.

As I've said before, I'm really disappointed by The Space Pirates. Based on the first couple of episodes, I was so looking forward to standing out from the crowd and proudly declaring a liking for the tale, but it's just not to be. I wonder if its reputation might be better had more episodes survived, or if more were to show up? The surviving Episode Two was rather good, and it gave me lots of little visual cues to enjoy. Because of the slower pacing throughout the rest of the tale, the audio just doesn't really help. Having something to look at (even if it is metal hair) would really benefit the tale.

It still doesn't deserve the title of the worst story of the 1960s, though, I don't think. The Dominators was much worse than this - and I could see all of that one!

Though I've joked about it above, this really is a pretty significant moment in the marathon for me. One of the things that's always been off putting about the idea of a Doctor Who marathon is the fact that such a large chunk of the early years is marred by huge gaps. I tiptoed into Season Three with a bit of a worry, because i genuinely didn't know how I'd cope with so many bits of the programme being missing, and getting stuck in a cycle of moving between the soundtracks, surviving episodes and back again.

As it is, I've really enjoyed it. The sheer quality of a lot of stories from this era has really helped to make the task more manageable, and in some ways it's gong to be a shame to leave behind the narration from the soundtracks. Season Six has been a nice way of easing back into actually sitting down to watch an episode properly again, which I have to confess has felt a bit alien so many days in a row!

Still, despite everything, I really do hold out hope that more will be returned to the archive at some point in the future - and I've absolutely no doubt that it will. These things always turn up in the strangest of places and just when you're not expecting it. Now that I'm ten episodes away from the end of the 1960s, it's sods law that some will be turning up any day now…

6 September 2013

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

Day 249: The Space Pirates, Episode Five

Dear diary,

I can't seem to make my mind up with this story. Every so often, I think I've worked out what's going on, and then I change my mind and they do something different anyway. For much of Episode Two, I kept switching between believing that Milo Clancy was definitely not in league with the pirates, to deciding that he definitely was. Even now, when it seems pretty clear that he's on the side of the law (even if it's grudgingly), I keep expecting them to throw a curve ball and make him the leader of the pirates anyway.

Then you've got Madeleine Issigri and her metal hair (though, for some reason, as I listened through today's episode, I kept picturing her as Miss Kelly from The Seeds of Death). From the moment she first turned up in the story I'd decided that she must be working with the pirates, then I figured that was too easy so started to think otherwise. Now it would appear that she is working with them, but only because she's in too deep now to withdraw. I rather like that. I'd assume that she was in it simply for the money (we've been told several times that the old Argonite mines are all but dried up, meaning that she's head of a dying company), but it turns out that she entered this operation with the best of intentions, when it was a simple 'salvage mission'.

As if that wasn't enough, you've then got the reveal today that her father - a man we've been told is dead - is alive and… he isn't well, but he's a live at least, and locked up in his old study not all that far away. I have to confess that I knew he was going to be turning up at some point, because I read an article in Nothing at the End of the Lane a few days ago all about the costumes in this story, and there's an image of his in there. Still, it makes for a nice reveal, and adds yet another layer to everything.

The problem with all this is that I've sort of lost track of who's chasing who. I know that the pirates are planning to set Clancy, the Doctor, Jamie, Zoe, and Dom all free in the LIZ 79, with the intention of sending it up for the Space Corps to find, but I'm not now sure if the Space Corps are still after Clancy or not. They discuss it a lot today as they try to piece the puzzle all together, but I'm sorry to say that they left me behind somewhere along the route.

One of the things that I am really enjoying about The Space Pirates is that we've got Jack May in as General Hermack. May is often familiar for playing Simms the butler in Adam Adamant Lives!, a series that I've got a lot of love for (indeed, I watched an episode a few months ago during The Tenth Planet to see Patrick Troughton's last acting work before becoming the Doctor. How fitting that May should then turn up in Doctor Who so close to Troughton's departure!), and it's great to see him here. I also didn't realise until today that May was also the voice of Igor in Count Duckula, a series that I was only praising a few weeks ago during The Invasion! It's a small world, British telly, innit?

And I think that's one of the key things about this marathon for me. For man years, my interest in archive television only really stretched as far as Doctor Who. I'd make the occasional excursion into Green Acres, but in terms of British television, it was all about the TARDIS. When I watched an old episode of Doctor Who then, for the most part, the actors were only familiar to me from that story, and nothing else. In some ways, I rather liked that. I quite enjoyed the fact that all of the Doctors were simply the Doctor, for example. I didn't know them as anyone else (though it blew my mind when I realised that Partrick Troughton was the priest in The Omen).

Over the last few years, though, my tastes have changed and I've taken quite a liking to lots of archive telly. I'd say at least half of my shelf is made up of series made before the 1970s. It's meant that as we've gone along, there have been plenty of instances of people turning up in the series that I know better from somewhere else, and I've really enjoyed that. It's not simply confined to the actors, either. Verity Lambert was producer of the previously mentioned Adam Adamant Lives!. Sydney Newman was the creator of The Avengers. Many of the writers have turned up across a great many of these different programmes, and it's been fun to watch their style crop up in all these different formats.

In a little under two weeks, I'll be exploding into colour with Spearhead From Space, and moving onto the 1970s. It's an era of British TV than I'm far less familiar with. Of all the titles on my shelves only three were made in the 1970s - Whodunnit (hosted from Season Two by Jon Pertwee, so there is still at least one connection!), the 1970s volume of Coronation Street, and the Morcambe and Wise box set. I'm hoping to use the marathon as a chance to explore other television as I go along (though I'll probably not be keeping much of a track about it in this blog - you're here to read about my journey through Doctor Who, after all!), but I am going to miss being in an era which I have such a strong love for. It's been an interesting experience, and it's helped to make the marathon all the richer.

6 September 2013

Louise Jameson is set to star in Mark Gatiss' upcoming directional debut of 'The Tractate Middoth'.

This new half-hour drama is a chilling adaptation of M.R. James's short story and will see a return of the cherished ghost story to BBC Two at Christmas.

She will be joined in the cast by Sacha Dhawan (Last Tango In Halifax, Being Human; The History Boys), John Castle (I, Claudius), Louise Jameson (Doctor Who, Doc Martin), Una Stubbs (Sherlock, Til Death Do Us Part), David Ryall (The Village); Eleanor Bron (Bedazzled, Women In Love, Absolutely Fabulous); Nick Burns (Nathan Barley) and Roy Barraclough (Coronation Street).

In a quiet academic library, John Eldred (Castle) seeks out the help of young Mr Garrett (Dhawan) in his search for a seemingly obscure Hebrew text. But there is something unusual about this book and something not entirely scholarly about Eldred’s intentions. Soon, Garrett's hunt for the Tractate Middoth provokes terrifying apparitions in the library and a vengeful menace from beyond the grave.

Mark Gatiss says:

"The wonderful adaptations of MR James's tales that I saw on TV as a child have been a lasting inspiration to me. I'm delighted to restore the tradition of a BBC 'Ghost Story for Christmas' and bring to life a personal favourite - The Tractate Middoth - one of James's most atmospheric, thrilling, and downright scary tales."

Mark Bell, Commissioning Editor for Arts, says:

“In his ghost stories MR James displays a beguiling mixture of dry wit, singular erudition and a joyful enthusiasm for the macabre. Mark Gatiss shares the same attributes and it is tremendously exciting to be working on both a new drama and a documentary investigation of what made this great British eccentric tick."

The drama will be complemented by a documentary, M.R. James: Ghost Writer (w/t) in which Mark Gatiss steps into the mind of M.R. James, the enigmatic English master of the supernatural story. A long-time admirer of James, Mark will explore how this donnish Victorian bachelor, conservative by nature and a devout Anglican, created tales that continue to chill readers more than a century on.

Viewers will join Mark on an atmospheric journey from James's childhood home in Suffolk to Eton College and on to King’s College, Cambridge, the two institutions where James spent most of his life, venturing into ancient churches, dark cloisters and echoing libraries along the way. By following in James’s footsteps, Mark will attempt to uncover the secrets of his inspiration.

[Source: BBC Press Office]

6 September 2013

BBC Consumer Products have sent DWO the details for the Doctor Who Blu-ray release of The Complete Series 1-7.

The Complete Series 1-7 Box-set (Blu-ray)
Featuring: The 9th, 10th & 11th Doctors

The only thing better than watching Doctor Who is watching it in high definition, which is why BBC Worldwide is celebrating Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary with the release of Doctor Who: The Complete Series 1-7 Blu-ray Boxset on 4th November 2013 with an RRP of £255.31. The set includes the complete adventures of the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston, Thor: The Dark World) and Tenth Doctor (David Tennant, Broadchurch, Fright Night), available in newly remastered Blu-ray versions at full 1080p resolution for the first time ever, sitting alongside those of the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) in this high definition collection. 

BBC Worldwide has gone above and beyond to bring fans the best possible Doctor Who experience, and has also fully remastered the complete Tenth Doctor Specials as well as The Complete Fifth and Sixth Series (previously available on Blu-ray), to full 1080p resolution as well. Throw in the new Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series Blu-ray set along with hours and hours of bonus features from the past collections PLUS 120 minutes of bonus material that has never previously been available on disc, as well as more goodies than you can shake a sonic screwdriver at, and this is one blue box that just might actually be bigger on the inside.

With 29 blu-ray discs of episodes, specials and bonus features, this limited edition gift set will keep on giving for years to come. So share it with a friend or keep it for yourself, but don’t miss your chance to pre-order this limited edition set.

Special Features:

•  “The Doctor Who Ultimate List of Lists” from BBC AMERICA’s The Brit List - BBC AMERICA’s pop culture correspondent, Asha Leo (@ashaleo), is joined by special guest John Barrowman (“Torchwood,” “Doctor Who”) to announce the rankings of the “Top Five Companions,” “Top Five Scariest Moments,” “Top Five Best Monsters,” “Top Five Guest Stars” and “Top Five Things You’ll Only See on Doctor Who.” Rankings are based on votes from readers of BBCAMERICA.com’s Anglophenia blog.

•  Doctor Who at the Proms 2010 - Doctor Who’s own Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill host a spectacular evening of music from the series played live by the London Philharmonic Orchestra at London’s historic Royal Albert Hall.  Includes video projections, appearances by the monsters and a special guest appearance from 11th Doctor Matt Smith.  For the first time, the collection will include the full 90-minute concert and has been remastered in 5.1 Surround Sound.  

•  Doctor Who: The Best of the Christmas Specials - This previously unreleased special from December 2011 takes an inside look at the very best moments from the incredible Doctor Who Christmas specials that have captivated audiences around the world. A collection of fans from the celebrity, comedy, sci-fi and digital worlds discuss their favorite moments from both David Tennant and Matt Smith era Christmas episodes.

+  The Complete Series 1-7 is released on 4th November 2013, priced £255.31.

+  Preorder Now from BBC Shop for just £167.25
+  Compare Prices for this product on CompareTheDalek.com.

[Source: BBC Consumer Products]

5 September 2013

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

Day 248: The Space Pirates, Episode Four

Dear diary,

As anyone who's been reading these entries for a while will know, I'm really not the biggest fan of missing episode recons. For one reason or another, they usually fail to hold my attention, and the ticker-tape descriptions of the action move far too quickly for me to get me head around. With the odd exception for an animated instalment, or occasionally dipping my toe into the world of the recon (I couldn't actually get through Marco Polo without watching one - how times change!), I've experienced pretty much all the missing episodes in the form of the narrated soundtracks.

It's been a perfectly good way of going through the stories, and I really don't feel that I've missed out on my thing by going the purely audio route a lot of the time. They're all incredibly well produced, with fantastic linking narration (even if the script for The Space Pirates' narration really is going out in a blaze of glory. At one point today, Hines takes great delight in opening a scene with the words 'the Doctor is busily twanging his tuning fork…' Is he indeed!?), and they've been great to listen to on my way home from work each day, lasting just long enough to end as I step through the door, or thereabouts.

But last night, having not enjoyed Episode Three of The Space Pirates as much as I had Episode One, and realising that this really is the end of an important stage in the marathon, I felt all nostalgic. I decided that before I move on to the era in which everything exists in the archives, I needed to give reckons one last chance to prove themselves. I'll admit, there were one or two selfish reasons for it, too. The Space Pirates is one of the Doctor Who stories with the least surviving visual material, no tele snaps, and there's even a few characters we don't have any photos of. I wanted to see how a recon would cope with such a situation.

The answer, it seems, is 'pretty well'. I did have a moment, about three minutes in where I decided that it just wasn't going to work, so muted the recon and keyed up the right place in the soundtrack so that I could actually follow what on Earth was happening. I think I probably looked like a bit of an idiot sat in front of the computer screen with my headphones plugged into my phone, but there we go.

The reconstruction overcomes the lack of available images by creating plenty of its own, and pretty cleverly, too. There's several shots of the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe taken from the surviving second episode of the story, and some which I'm pretty sure are taken from elsewhere. One particular image of Milo Clancy came up so frequently that I worried the image may be burned onto the screen for good, but it did the job. For the actual space pirates themselves, the recon used CGI people. I have to confess that it's not a style of CGI that I've ever really liked, but it works pretty well in this instance.

Sadly, watching it in this form hasn't really helped me enjoy the story any better. I'm genuinely quite disappointed, because having enjoyed the first third after years of being told how rubbish the tale was, I was hoping to be all contradictory, stand proud and say how much I liked it. And there is an awful lot to like! Troughton is - of course - on fine form, and there's a wonderful moment after their fall in the cliffhanger resolution in which he moans in pain and produces a handful of drawing pins that he's landed on. When Zoe asks him what he's carrying the pins for, the Doctor replies simply; 'I like drawing pins!' If anything, it put me in mind of the Second Doctor we had back in Season Four, who is a little bit weird, a little bit 'kooky', but completely loveable, and totally 'the Doctor'.

It's a shame to see him using his tuning fork as a means to break out of their cell, as I was hoping the Sonic Screwdriver was here to stay after it had turned up for a second appearance in The Dominators. Maybe he still hasn't managed to work out all the kinks in the design, and it just won't work on locks yet? It's either that, or the door is made from wood (which, for all we know, it might have been).

Things seem to have gone off the rails a little, it's true, but The Space Pirates is still not as bad as everyone would have you believe. I'm hoping we can make it through the next two episodes relatively unscathed, and it might be able to redeem itself just a bit…

4 September 2013

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

Day 247: The Space Pirates, Episode Three

Dear diary,

Something that I've always really enjoyed about the Troughton era is that it spends so much time looking at the future that's just within reach of the audience. Many of the adventures over the course of the last three seasons have taken us into the Twenty-First Century, which at the time must have felt remote and distant enough to really be 'out there'.

It's conceivable, though, that a ten year old watching in the late 1960s would be around to witness mankind's evolution into the type of world we see in these stories, in which the weather for the entire planet is controlled from the Moon, goods and people can be teleported across the globe in a split second, and we'd have all manner of high tech space stations in near-Earth orbit, just ripe for a Cyberman invasion.

Admittedly, it can be a bit tricky to tie everything together from time to time, and the dates given to these stories from years of 'fan wisdom' don't always make the task easier. The second volume of the About Time series makes a pretty good stab at it, and I've had their timeline in mind as I've moved through the last few months. It gives placements to stories such as The Enemy of the World, The Wheel in Space, The Moonbase, and stretching out beyond this era of the programme, Warriors of the Deep (placing them in that order, chronologically, starting from around 2030 and moving through the the 2084 stated on screen for Warriors).

It's in a more recent book - A History of the Universe in 100 Objects, by James Goss and Steve Tribe - that Milo Clancy and the era of Argonite mining is really slotted into the equation. It speculates that the political troubles of the 2080s are what gives rise to the era of lawless spacefaring we've heard spoken of in this story. Clancy likely left the Earth at about the same time the Silurians and the Sea Devils were teaming up to fight the Fifth Doctor, and then the Space Corps were set up far more recently, after the turn of the century.

While I'm not a fan who spends a great deal of time obsessing over making sure that everything 'fits' absolutely within the Doctor Who universe (for a programme that's lasted in some shape or form for half a century, with literally thousands of stories told in all different media it would be entirely impossible for everything to click), I'll admit that it's nice when there's a kind of internal consistency like this.

I'm sorry to report that this episode hasn't really grabbed me in the same way the first couple did, but there's still plenty to be going on with. I think the main thing I'm enjoying is the fact that Zoe is still being used as… well… Zoe. Back during The Wheel in Space, I considered that her character would probably have been washed down the TARDIS' waste system before long and we'd end up with Victoria in all but name.

Actually, though, she's faring pretty well on the whole. Her intelligence has been a key part of the plot in every story so far (with the possible exception of The Dominators, but you know what? That was weeks ago, and I can't actually remember anything other than the drilling scenes towards the end), wether it be in the form of blowing up an annoying computer or - as in today's episode - working out the best way to get the TARDIS back. It's great to see her coming across so well, and I'm finding myself really enjoying Wendy Padbury more and more. I'm so glad, as it's moments with her, Patrick Troughton, and Frazer Hines that really do help to perk up even the most lacklustre of episodes.

3 September 2013

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

Day 246: The Space Pirates, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I believe that I'm going a little bit against the grain when I say that I really enjoyed today's episode! It turns out that the visuals to The Space Pirates really do help it. I'm eve so pleased, because when I put the Lost in Time disc into the drive today I had to really fight myself to not select The Web of Fear Episode One from the menu instead.

The first thing to note is that, despite my complaints about the effects shots of the beacons exploding yesterday (which are housed on the same DVD, as a special feature), the spaceship models on show here are actually rather good. I'm somewhat surprised by the clarity of the shots, too - I thought all the stuff on the Lost in Time sets was unrestored, but they look really sharp. The designs of the spaceships are nothing particularly unusual, they're your standard sci-fi fare, but they look fab and they're filmed very nicely indeed. My only real complaint is that the background to all these bits is just solid black. Would it have killed them to poke a few pins through the backdrop and create some stars? I think it would really add to the effect.

Elsewhere, we've got the introduction of Milo Clancy to proceedings. He comes in for a bit of stick amongst Doctor Who fans (as do many members of the cast from this story) because of the accent, but you know what? I love him, too! Haha! He comes across as totally normal amongst all the high tech spaceship stuff on display. It's highlighted in one very simple moment when he gets a call to his ship, and rather than moving his breakfast, standing up and walking over to receive it, he simply shuffles his chair closer to where he needs to be. It seems like such a ridiculous, insignificant thing (and it is, really), but it adds something very real to the character.

His dialogue is all tailored in such a way that you can't help but enjoy his presence in a scene, too. It must be the kind of thing people talk about when they discuss Robert Holmes' writing being so good. My personal favourite has to be when Clancy - mid conversation with his captors - asks if he can blow his nose, or if that's an offence, too. It's the kind of sarcasm that you'd expect to get in this type of situation, but which most science fiction takes itself too seriously to include.

I also love that they've dressed him simply as an old west prospector. In The Seeds of Death, they set out to show us that we're in the future by making everyone where the same style of 'futuristic' uniform, and then mark out the Professor as being a bit of a rebel by giving him a kind of futuristic cardigan to wear over the top. There's a shot in today's episode when Clancy is surrounded by the crew of the Space Corps, and he looks so out of place by being dressed so casually.

If anything, it puts you on his side at this stage; all the other characters look ridiculous, playing at space cowboys with their ridiculous collars and uniforms. Clancy looks like he's just milling along, trying to get by and enjoying himself. It's only in the cliffhanger that we really turn against him, even though by they stage we've had it more-or-less confirmed to us that he's working with the pirates. Thankfully it gives an already great cliffhanger even more impact, when he simply walks in to the beacon and shoots Jamie.

Yesterday, I made a reference to Revelation of the Daleks and mused that people often complained about how long it took the Doctor and Peri to actually get involved in the action of that story, meeting up with the rest of the cast and such like. I only brought it up because it took the TARDIS so long to arrive in this story, and it seemed an apt comparison. Truth be told, I almost didn't mention it, because I knew someone would pipe up and complain that in that story it took them until the second episode to actually interact with our main guest characters.

Well this one's an even slower burner! Although the Doctor and his friends find themselves shot at by members of the Space Corps in Episode One, and then encounter Clancy making his way inside the beacon at the conclusion of today's episode, they still haven't gotten caught up with the main characters here. It's going to be Episode Three now before our regulars are really caught up with events, making this surely one of the longest lead ins for the Doctor ever.

In short: this is brilliant stuff. There was even a point when I thought the episode might be heading for an 8/10, but I'm afraid that anything that includes a woman wearing a wig made of metal isn't going to reach quite that high. It had to be said, though, it's tricky looking at that costume without picturing the ivory headpiece from Community.

3 September 2013

The ninth instalment in a sensational series of stories celebrating the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who is written by Charlie Higson, actor, comedian and author of the phenomenally successful Young Bond books and the cult thriller series, The Enemy.

Following on from short stories by Eoin Colfer, Michael Scott, Marcus Sedgwick, Philip Reeve, Patrick Ness, Richelle Mead, Malorie Blackman and Alex Scarrow, Charlie Higson has written the ninth adventure in the series, based on the Ninth Doctor played by Christopher Eccleston. Higson commented:

“I grew up with Doctor Who and have always been a massive fan so it's a great honour to be involved in this anniversary celebration. Russell T Davies did a great job of rebooting the series with Christopher Eccleston so to be able to write the Ninth Doctor story was a great opportunity to say thanks to the Doctor and thanks to Russell.”


When a girl called Ali pockets a silver orb that falls from the sky, little does she realise it’s her ticket to seeing the universe!

Desperate to retrieve the mysterious object, the Ninth Doctor agrees to let her join him on a dangerous trip to ancient Babylon.

Together they must join forces to stop a giant Starman from destroying Earth before it’s too late! 

Eleven Doctors, eleven months, eleven stories: a year-long celebration of Doctor Who! The most exciting names in children's fiction each create their own unique adventure about the time-travelling Time Lord.

About the author:

Charlie Higson is a successful author, actor, comedian and writer for television and radio. He wrote the phenomenally successful Young Bond series which has sold over a million copies in the UK alone and been translated into over 24 languages. The first novel in his bestselling cult thriller series, The Enemy, was published to critical acclaim in 2009. It was followed by The Dead (2010), The Fear (2011) and The Sacrifice (2012). Charlie is a huge fan of horror films and books and even studied gothic literature at university.

Higson started writing when he was ten years old but it was a long time before he got paid for doing it. On leaving university he was the singer in a pop group (The Higsons) before giving it up to become a painter and decorator. It was around this time that he started writing for television on Saturday Night Live. In partnership with Paul Whitehouse, he went on to create hugely successful comedy series The Fast Show, in which he also appeared. Other TV works include The Harry Enfield Television Programme, The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, Shooting Stars, Randall and Hopkirk Deceased, the film Suite 16 and Swiss Toni.   

His work for radio includes the award-winning spoof radio series Down the Line (BBC Radio 4), which became the television comedy series Bellamy’s People (BBC 2). Charlie’s other books include the thrillers King of the Ants (1992), Happy Now (1993), Full Whack (1995) and Getting Rid of Mr Kitchen (1996). He lives in North London. 

+  The Beast Of Babylon is released on 23rd September 2013, Priced £1.99.

+  Preorder this eShort from iTunes for £1.99.
+  Preorder this eShort on Amazon for £1.99

+  Check Out Charlie Higson's Website.

[Source: Puffin Books]

2 September 2013

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

Day 245: The Space Pirates, Episode One

Dear diary,

I've often seen people complain about some of the Sixth Doctor stories, where it takes him a long time to actually get involved with the action. Revelation of the Daleks is the big one - the Doctor and Peri don't actually meet up with any of the guest cast until the second episode, having spent forty-five minutes roaming the snowy countryside and fighting zombies.

At least in that episode the Doctor is actually present, even if it is on the outskirts of the action! The TARDIS doesn't turn up in today's instalment until almost fifteen minutes in. I'm pretty sure that I'm right in saying this is the latest into a story that the Doctor ever arrives.

The time before the arrival of our heroes isn't all wasted, though, and you get the distinct impression that it may have been quite exciting. I know, that's not something that anyone has ever said about The Space Pirates. The thing is, if you're six years old and sitting down on a Saturday evening to watch Doctor Who, your disappointment at the lack of the Doctor is likely to be held off while you've got pirates roaming around in a space ship, blowing up all these beacons.

This is the point where I'd usually say 'and the tele snaps show us exactly how awesome/average/awful (delete as applicable) these sequences were', but by this stage, John Cura had finished providing his services due to failing health. Indeed, Cura died not long after this, between Episodes One and Two of The War Games. It means that The Space Pirates is one of very few stories for which we have absolutely no tele snaps, giving us little indication as to how things would have really looked.

Thankfully, we do have the destruction of one beacon preserved as a brief clip in the archives. It's not… well, it's not the best thing we've ever seen. There's something about the way that the station splits onto several nice, even chunks that puts me in mind of a wheel of cheese being cut, and that's probably not the effect they were aiming for…

Fittingly for our last story with missing episodes, the soundtrack feels like they're really going for it. Frazer Hines is back on narration duty and his opening line ('Far out in space, amongst the stars…') sets us up for a more richly detailed audio than usual. Not long afterwards, we get space described as a 'velvet, star-studded blackness', which sounds as much like a description of Hollywood than anything.

On the whole, though, it's a positive start. I'm not blown away, and the episode is little more than average for the programme at this point, but it's not the complete disaster that people always describe it. I imagine that things will go downhill before too long, but if it sticks like this all the way through, I think I can handle it!

2 September 2013

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, Melbourne-based improvisational theatre company The Impro Box is bringing back its sell out improvised Doctor Who show, Time Lord, devised and directed by David S. Innes.

The season once again stars Rob Lloyd (Who, Me, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Live on Bowen) along with The Impro Box players. Show details can be found below:

Venue: Club Voltaire, 14 Raglan Street, Melbourne, Australia
Dates: 3rd-7th September 2013
Time: 7:30pm
Prices: $15 (Full), $10 (Concession & Cosplayers), $45 (Season Pass)
Tickets: http://www.trybooking.com/58329

+  For more info visit the Time Lord website: http://www.theimprobox.com/time-lord/
+  Follow The Impro Box on Twitter@ImproBox

[Source: David Innes]

1 September 2013

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

Day 244: The Seeds of Death, Episode Six

Dear diary,

As has often been the case with stories like this, I've been making a note for several days now to mention the titles for the episodes. In The Seeds of Death, the title captions for sac episode are shown against a backdrop of the Earth and the Moon, hanging in space as the camera moves slowly across the scene to show us this view from a few angles. It's a lovely little shot, but it's the music that accompanies it which I've really liked.

The music to the entire serial is quite good, on the whole, although on occasion it feels a little out of place. There's a moment today when Troughton is creeping around with his new solar weapon and something causes him to jump. You assume that the (loud!) music will follow the same cue and perk up at this moment, but it's actually going through a more subdues phase at that precise moment.

It's only a minor niggle, though, as on the whole the work being down on this story has been rather good. I've already called out Michael Ferguson's direction for praise a few times, but I have to add that today he produces one of my absolute favourite shots, as Troughton stares down the Ice Lord (they're not actually called this on screen in this story. I'm assuming that it gets brought up in one of the Pertwee stories, or I've just made it up…) during their final confrontation. 'You have destroyed our entire fleet!' the Ice Lord (I'm sticking with it) hisses, to which the Doctor's reply is simple - 'You tried to destroy an entire world'.

In a story that's given Troughton a fair amount of chances to play his more comical side of the Doctor, this is a great moment, and it's one that I'm surprised doesn't get mentioned all that often. Maybe it's because his sideburns are still trying to take control of the programme?

Despite me just assigning names to the Ice Warriors that seem to sit right in my head, I'm rather impressed with the way that they're treated on screen in this story. The title 'Ice Warrior' was given to them by one of the humans back in, er, The Ice Warriors, and I worried that by this stage that's simply what everyone would be calling them. They actually only seem to gain this title amongst our new guest cast after the Doctor or Jamie has already used it, which is a lovely touch. I'm not sure if it's entirely intentional (Brian Hayles did create the creatures, after all, so you'd think if anyone would remember that the name was simply assigned to them, it would be him), but it works really well. Another one of those little things which makes me smile.

Speaking of which - Jamie manages to redeem himself with this episode! Hooray! Since somewhere around the start of The Krotons, Jamie has been the subject of a fair amount of abuse (yeah, yeah, including from me). His intelligence keeps being called into question, and he doesn't even seem to be the Doctor's favourite companion anymore. In Episode Five, the Doctor video conferences with his two companions at one point, but specifically only addresses Zoe. He doesn't even seem to notice Jamie stood there with him.

Much as I've started tiring of Jamie lately, I found it to be something of a 'punch the air' moment when he took Zoe to one side and asked her to send him up to the Moon to save the Doctor. Jamie may not be the smartest person currently travelling in the TARDIS, but he'd never let anything happen to the Doctor, and that's where his real strength lies. Fair enough, I guess he can stick around for now.

Right then! The next story should be interesting. The Space Pirates is the last Doctor Who tale with episodes missing, and was rated the worst of the 1960s stories during the Doctor Who Magazine 'Mighty 200' poll. To say that I'm not exactly thrilled to be synching the audio to my phone is putting it mildly…

1 September 2013

Researches for a forthcoming biography of a ‘60s Doctor Who writer have turned up an intriguing curio: a draft script of William Hartnell’s final episode which doesn’t end with the Doctor regenerating.

William Hartnell’s Doctor bowed out in October 1966 with the four-part adventure “The Tenth Planet”, a story which not only introduced the concept that the Doctor could change his appearance, but also saw the first appearance of the Cybermen.

Now author Michael Seely, who’s working on a biography of the story’s co-author, Dr Kit Pedler, has unearthed draft scripts of all four episodes which predate the decision to write out William Hartnell.

“I found these scripts and two more from ‘The Moonbase’ (known then as ‘The Return Of The Cybermen’) among a very large collection of Kit’s papers which one of his children had kept in their attic,” explains Seely. “As I looked through it, I realised it was the first draft [script editor and co-writer] Gerry Davis prepared when Kit fell ill in June 1966."

"The structure is more or less the same, though a lot of the dialogue is different. Some things were cut, especially involving the Cybermen. For example, the Cybermen planned to convert [companion] Polly and the Doctor into Cybermen towards the end of the story, and kept them prisoner in what they described as a waiting room. The most eye-catching difference is what didn’t happen at the end of the episode.”

The fact that this script was written in June 1966 and rehearsals for the story began on 14 September only underlines that the actor’s departure was decided upon rather late in the day (Hartnell’s wife’s diary records that he told her on 16 July 1966).

“Gerry Davis and [producer] Innes Lloyd were always very diplomatic and tactful in their interviews,” says Seely. “Both died in 1991, long before ‘warts and all’ interviews became the norm. We know that William Hartnell was being persuaded to give up the role he loved over the summer of 1966, and that they were sounding out replacements. He only decided to leave in the middle of July, the month after this draft was written.”

The cache of Pedler’s papers also includes five original storylines for Doomwatch, the 1970-1972 eco-thriller TV series he co-created with Gerry Davis - including several that were never made - as well as proposals for further TV shows, a couple of never-recorded radio plays, and various unfinished books and short stories.

+  The Quest For Pedler by Michael Seely is due for release in Early 2014. Visit www.miwk.com for more details.

[Source: SFX]

31 August 2013

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

Day 243: The Seeds of Death, Episode Five

Before we start, there's something that really does need to be addressed… just how big are Patrick Troughton's sideburns?! I know he's just had a week off, with plenty of time to grow them out and all, but come on! It doesn't help that we get lots of close up shots on the side of the Doctor's head (are there lots more than usual, or am I just noticing them because of the massive sideburns? Perhaps director Michael Ferguson was just really impressed by them, so kept trying to get them into shot?), and it's only highlighted by the fact that we cut very quickly from a side-on shot to one filmed several weeks earlier, in which the sideburns don't exist! Forget UNIT dating, surely this is the biggest controversy in the history of Doctor Who? The Time Lords' ability to grow huge sideburns at the drop of a hat!

Ahem. Anyway. Back to business…

Dear diary,

There was a time, way beck when, that I said I couldn't often spot the difference between film and video tape when it came to watching Doctor Who. Now, obviously, I'm not an idiot. I can see the difference between them in an instant, but I'd never really picked up on it before. It never impacted me when I sat down to watch a serial, it just happened to swap styles from time to time.

Watching through at the pace of an episode a day means that it's just become part of the visual language that I'm used to at the moment. Every so often, we'll cut to film and a little voice in the back of my head will note that an effect is about to take place. It's usually either that, or we've ventured outside. This has it's advantages, and one of them comes in today's episode.

We already know that the foam is spreading out across the world (or, since this episode seems to be playing on a smaller stage, we know that it's at least present in a park somewhere in England), and we've seen plenty of shots of a lone Ice Warrior walking through it as he makes his way through the trees to an unknown destination. Therefore, when we follow a sequence of the Warrior outside in a park and then the shot changes to him approaching a building, a little voice in my head told me that it was being filmed outdoors, just like the rest of the shots I've just seen.

It was only the more that I looked at the building, with its odd 'futuristic' twists on architecture that an alarm bell started to ring. Surely they hadn't gone and stuck bits onto a real building to make it look more 'space age'? Even if they had, surely they couldn't have done it so well, and made it look this good? But, by that same token, it's too big to have been built in the studio, and it's shot on film so it must be outside…

Having finished the episode, I immediately returned to the DVD menu and turned on the Production Subtitles, before finding that point in the episode again. Thankfully, the subtitles do draw attention to it, and confirm that the whole thing was shot on film at Ealing, as was our cliffhanger moment of Troughton turning into the foam (without his massive sideburns). It shouldn't impress me, but I like that my brain has become so accustomed to the way in which the programme is made in this era that it can so easily be tricked into thinking they've done an even better job on the design front!

Anyway, with Troughton back (and sporting those ginormous sideburns…), there is of course plenty that I could single out for praise. I'm only going to choose two, though, and neither of them are on the side of his head. The first is the way in which he comes around from his week off, rubbing his head and groaning slightly as he regains consciousness. As he tries to sit up, he mumbles briefly under his breath - 'Victoria…'. It's a lovely little call back, and so nice to see that she's not been completely forgotten. In many ways, we're deep into the era of 'revolving door' companions, so it's always good to have these tiny little references snuck in.

The other thing to notice is that Matt Smith must have watched this episode at some point in the past. It's well documented that he watched The Tomb of the Cybermen and, according to Steven Moffat in Doctor Who Magazine #450, spent '20 minutes on the phone just raving about how brilliant [it] was', but there's a moment in this episode which wouldn't feel at all out of place featuring the Eleventh Doctor.

Crowding into the T-Mat booth on the Moon, the Doctor smiles and exclaims the he thinks it will be quite fun to experience this kind of travel. Arriving back on Earth, he steps out of the machine completely deflated, complaining that there was no sensation at all. I can completely see Matt Smith playing this scene, with the same sense of schoolboy excitement and the crushing sense of disappointment that follows.

In that same feature from Doctor Who Magazine, Moffat goes on to say that Matt falling in love with Troughton's portrayal of the Doctor is 'just as every actor [to have played the part] since Troughton has done.' It's wonderful, as I draw towards the Second Doctor's final couple of adventures, to think of his spirit being so alive and well in the programme right up to this day, almost a half a century later. It really hammers home just how brilliant this incarnation is.

31 August 2013

Earlier today, the internet was rife with rumours that Ian McNeice would be returning to Doctor Who to reprise his role as Winston Churchill.

The rumours were sparked after Ian was misquoted at today's 50th Anniversary Convention at The Ritz Cinema in Lincoln, where The Ritz Cinema's own Twitter feed tweeted:

"Ooooo spoilers.... Winston Churchill to return to Doctor Who"

DWO has since spoken directly to Ian McNeice himself, who had the following message for fans:

"I am not doing a new Doctor Who at present, but would be thrilled to return if asked. K.B.O!"

+  The 50th Anniversary Special is due to air in 3D on 23rd November 2013 at 7:00pm.

[Sources: Ian McNeiceThe Ritz Cinema]

30 August 2013
a a

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

Day 242: The Seeds of Death, Episode Four

Dear diary,

Over the course of the last 242 days, I've complained more than once about six-part serials, because you simply run out of things to actually say about the story somewhere around Episode Four. Often it simply falls to me to enjoy the story, through the cast and the direction, but as Terrance Dicks notes on the commentary for today's instalment: 'that's another disadvantage of this episode - it's Troughton-less'.

I think that the lack of the Doctor in this episode (conscious, at least) is actually really effective. It helps to sell the threat of the seed pods even more as they start exploding all across the Northern Hemisphere, because we've already seen it take out the Doctor. Anything that can incapacitate our hero in such a way is sure to be a real threat to the planet.

We've then got the threat of the Doctor being sent out into space between the Moon and the Earth, killing him well and truly. The problem I have with all this is that I just don't believe it. We're told that the system needs to be tinkered with in order to allow transmitting to somewhere other than another T-Mat capsule, but that seems like nonsense. If you can T-Mat things just to anywhere with only a few minutes tinkering, then why does everything have to be sent via the Moon in these capsules? It all seems a bit daft. Yes, in a story where the Moon has been taken over by giant reptiles sending seed pods to take over the Earth, this is the thing I find unbelievable.

Thankfully, the aftermath of the seeds pods arriving in London is fantastic. I'm glad that I hadn't been imagining these shots as for a few weeks now, whenever I pass through a small section of trees on the way into Cardiff, I've had images of an Ice Warrior roaming about among similar trees and i thought I might just be going mad. As it is, they form some fantastic shots of the creature roaming around the countryside, wading through the foam. It's another one of those instances where I'd really love to see these stories upgraded for Blu-Ray, with their film sequences rendered in HD. It's a beautifully shot few scenes, and I'd love to watch them crystal clear.

The Ice Warrior isn't so successful when it's still inside the T-Mat control room, sadly. I really liked the shot of him smashing the front of of the cubicle to break out into the room, and it's very effectively done, but then he just seems to stand around in a bit of a drunken haze for a minute, shooting his sonic weapon only at people who aren't part of our main guest cast, and then stumbles out of the room to kill a few more off screen. It's not the Ice Warriors' finest moment…

That said, the direction throughout the episode is fantastic on the whole, and special praise needs to be saved for the parallel zooms we cut between as we build up the the Doctor being teleported out of the T-Mat cubicle. It's so unlike anything I'm used to, and it looks brilliant.

A tricky episode to really say much about, as it's caught in an awkward point of the story, but with the Doctor back tomorrow (yes?) and the invasion of Earth well and truly underway, I've got high hopes…

30 August 2013

BBC Consumer Products have sent DWO the cover and details for the Doctor Who DVD release of The Tenth Planet.

The Tenth Planet
Featuring: The 1st Doctor

The TARDIS brings the Doctor and his friends Ben and Polly to the South Pole in 1986. 

Their arrival coincides with the appearance of Earth’s forgotten twin planet Mondas and visitors from that world – emotionless beings called Cybermen.

It’s up to the Doctor and his friends to stop these creatures before they convert Earth’s population into similar cyber creations – but the encounter will have a devastating effect on the Doctor...

Special Features:

Disc One:

•  Commentary with actors Anneke Wills (Polly), Christopher Matthews (Radar Technician), Earl Cameron (Williams), Alan White (Schultz), Donald Van Der Maaten (Cybermen Shav and Gern), Christopher Dunham (R/T Technician) and designer Peter Kindred. Moderated by Toby Hadoke.
•  Frozen Out - Cast and crew look back on the making of the story. With actors Anneke Wills, Earl Cameron and Reg Whitehead, designer Peter Kindred and vision mixer Shirley Coward.
•  Episode 4 VHS Reconstruction - The reconstruction of the missing fourth episode using audio, stills and surviving clips, which featured on the BBC Video VHS release of the story back in 2000.
•  Radio Times listings - Episode listings for The Tenth Planet from the BBC listings magazine Radio Times (DVD-ROM only – to be viewed on PC/Mac).
•  Production subtitles - Subtitles provide the viewer with cast details, script development and other information related to the production of The Tenth Planet.
•  Photo gallery - A selection of production, design and publicity photographs from this story.
•  Coming soon - An exclusive new trailer for a forthcoming DVD release.

Disc Two:

•  William Hartnell Interview - Shortly after leaving Doctor Who, star William Hartnell joined the 1966 Christmas pantomime tour of Puss in Boots. Interviewed in his dressing room for the BBC Bristol’s Points West programme, Hartnell talks frankly about Daleks, the merits of pantomime and his own thoughts on his future career in this extremely rare glimpse into the mind of the man who first brought the role of the Doctor to life…
•  Doctor Who Stories – Anneke Wills - Anneke Wills look back on her role as Polly in the series, in an interview recorded for the BBC’s Story of Doctor Who in 2003.
•  The Golden Age - Historian Dominic Sandbrook examines the myth of a ‘Golden Age’ of Doctor Who.
•  Boys! Boys! Boys! - Peter Purves, Frazer Hines and Mark Strickson reminisce about their time as companions to the First, Second and Fifth Doctors respectively.
•  Companion Piece - A psychologist, writers and some of the Doctor’s companions over the years examine what it means to be a Time Lord’s fellow traveller . With actors William Russell, Elisabeth Sladen, Louise Jameson, Nicola Bryant and Arthur Darvill, writers Nev Fountain and Joseph Lidster, and psychologist Dr Tomas Charmorro-Premuzic.
•  Blue Peter: Doctor Who's Tenth Anniversary - Two weeks before the show’s tenth anniversary, the Blue Peter team take a look back at Doctor Who’s history. Ironically, the strict preservation of Blue Peter’s history means that the clip of the first regeneration has been preserved, but the final episode of The Tenth Planet that it came from was never again seen after its use here.

+  The Tenth Planet is released on 18th November 2013, priced £20.48.

+  Compare Prices for this product on CompareTheDalek.com.

[Source: BBC Consumer Products]

29 August 2013

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

Day 241: The Seeds of Death, Episode Three

Dear diary,

Increasingly, it seems as though Doctor Who's Sixth Season has a very definite visual style, and it seems to be right at home with no end of other stuff that was being broadcast on TV at around the same time. The Mind Robber is obviously the famous one with a bit of a 'weird' vibe to it, what with the big white void, the exploding TARDIS, a companion being turned into a cardboard cutout, and a forest of letters, but since then, we're seeing more an more examples.

The Krotons was littered with them during the scenes of our heroes being subjected to the Krotons' machine, featuring shots distorted by a fisheye and cuts to bubbling tanks of liquid and images of our heroes in pain. Today, we get the Doctor picking up a seed pod and watching it expand until it breaks, showering him in a powder. We also get lots of sequences of him running through what appears to be a hall of mirrors (every Moonbase needs one!) creating some pretty unusual results.

None of this imagery would be out of place in something like The Avengers or The Prisoner, and it's making for an interesting experience. It's almost as if they knew the stories from this period would survive, so decided to do something a bit different with them.

And yet, despite all of this, I'm a little disappointed today. I was really excited to see the Doctor's reaction to discovering the Ice Warriors taking control on the Moon (indeed, the first time that he turns a corner and sees a pair of the creatures, he pulls a fantastic face as he scurries away to hide), but it happens off screen! We cut to the Doctor and his friends still in the rocket as Zoe sets up a good old exchange of exposition; 'Doctor, these creatures he described…' followed by 'Yes, Ice Warriors. Jamie and I have encountered them before…'.

The only positive to come out of it is that I know the Ice Warrior's motives nice and clearly - Mars is a dying world, so they want to colonise the Earth. Good-o, that's fine by be. The Ice Warriors left be a bit confused as to exactly what their plan was (Even now, I'm only pretty sure that it was about trying to get their ship out of the ice and go home), so it's nice to have it spelled out for me this time around! It does deprive us of seeing the actual reaction, though, and I'd have loved it to have taken place after we'd reached the Moon.

I also have to take issue with the entire T-Mat system. I can understand why it's become so vital to the world (heck, if you can send things from place to place right across the world almost instantaneously, of course it's going to have an impact), but we've seen it stated a few times over the last couple of episodes that the system isn't quite there yet. Oh, sure, they boast about it being infallible, but even the Professor mocks this fact when the problems occur.

Why then, in a system with no back up plan, and no way to keep things on the move when the Moon control goes down, is the entire planet so dependant on it? We're told towards the end of today's episode that all major cities are experiencing major food shortages! Does no one stock up anymore? The implication seems to be that all transmissions have to be relayed via the Moon, so surely people don't have food T-Matted to them for every meal? I could understand supermarkets perhaps not receiving deliveries (and, yes, I can stretch to believing that they might be running short on stock. If you've ever seen the way people panic buy in the shops when they know they're going to be closed for a single day over Easter, then I can imagine some pretty serious panic buying occurring when rumours leak out that the entire system has gone down!), but it seems a little far-fetched to think that we're on the brink of starvation so soon!

I can't complain too much, though, because the Doctor does get to take part today in one of my favourite moments from the entire series, as a pair of Ice Warriors bear down on him. 'Your leader will be angry if you kill me!' he declares, desperately grasping for something to save him before adding 'I'm a genius!' It's actually the moment after this that I love, as the Ice Warriors hiss 'Geeenniiuussss…' back at him. It's one of those odd scenes that always seems to be stuck in my head, and I find myself thinking about from time-to-time, completely out of the blue.

28 August 2013

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

Day 240: The Seeds of Death, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I'm starting to feel a little bit sorry for Jamie. I've not been all that kind to him of late, and I've shifted very quickly from considering him to be a vital member of the TARDIS team and thinking that it's really about time that he should be off. Worse than that, though, is that the Doctor and Zoe almost seem to be thinking the same thing! There's a look the Doctor gives his companion when they're preparing for the rocket to take off in this episode that I think I can only describe as 'disdain'.

Add to that the way that the Doctor and Zoe are said to have been invaluable during a meeting about getting the rocket off the ground, and a comment that they seem to know more than our resident expert on the subject. It's not long before the same crew members are wondering if Jamie has the same kind of expertise, and the Doctor's not sure that he wants Jamie to come along with him when he blasts off for the Moon.

In some ways, it almost feels as though this could be Jamie's final story in the programme, and that he's being set up for a departure before we're finished. Having spent much of The Krotons separated from his companions, he's not being left out again, or at least he's only being included somewhat grudgingly. It's like they're trying to set up an on-going narrative thread, but I'm fairly sure it's not going to actually go anywhere.

Steven Moffat has said before in interviews that he likes the Doctor to be travelling with two (or more) companions, as this gives him characters who can go off together and talk about the Doctor, rather than simply being there to talk to him. I think this point can be clearly seen in this episode, when Jamie and Zoe spend some time together discussing their options for helping a group of people we've only just met. They discuss the idea of using the TARDIS to get up to the Moon, but decide that they'll probable overshoot their destination in either space or time. Or both, for that matter. The Doctor does go on to join them in the conversation, peering through a hole in the wall as he chips in.

It's just one example of the great direction we're seeing in this story. Lately, it feels as though I'm constantly praising the work of the directors in the series. I'm not sure if it's just a side effect of suddenly having so many existing episodes to watch, meaning that I've got a stronger connection to the visual aspects of the series, or if the direction has genuinely gotten better since we could last see it regularly. I'm pleased to say that I think it's the latter - it feels like they've got some real professionals in at the moment.

There's some lovely shots of an Ice Warrior searching the Moonbase's solar energy room for an escaped crew member, and it's shot from a high angle which really does show off the scope of the set. There's also some interesting choices being made with the music, too, switching from loud, bombastic noise while the Ice Warriors invade the base to absolute silence as we prepare for the rocket's take off.

It really helps to up the tension as our heroes strap themselves in, unsure what to expect when (or if) they reach their destination. I'm not entirely sure why they're so keen to dive in and help these people, as they've only met a few minutes before, and although there's hints that the whole world could come into some kind of trouble with the downfall of T-Mat, it all feels a bit quick to volunteer themselves for the first rocket launch in decades.

It's very topical, though. I always thought it was odd that the programme returned to the setting of a Moonbase so soon after the last visit (we're only about two years on from, er… The Moonbase), but actually it's quite topical at the moment. As this story went out, we were only a few months from that first small step for man as Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the Moon for real, and the fever for this kind of science fiction was ripe.

I'm finding it interesting that while we've known there's Ice Warriors pulling the strings for some time now, many of our major characters still don't. Our three regulars don't have a clue, and Miss Kelly, now up on the Moon herself, doesn't have a clue either. It's making for an interesting dynamic, as we don't always get to be this far ahead of the Doctor, and I'm looking forward to seeing his reaction, which I'd imagine will come pretty quickly once they've made it to the Moon.

One thing, though… how annoyed would you be to find out that after all that fuss, all the risk of the first rocket launch in all those years, the trouble with the systems crashing and the danger of drifting on forever through space, Miss Kelly has made it to the Moon in a matter of seconds anyway, 'cos they've fixed their teleport! It's typical, that!

27 August 2013

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

Day 239: The Seeds of Death, Episode One

Dear diary,

I'm in two minds about The Seeds of Death. I know I've seen it before, but there seems to be conflicting memories fighting for space in my head. On the one side, I recall not really caring for it very much. On the other, I can remember really enjoying it. This one really could swing either way…

The thing that really stands out as we’re dropped into the new world for this story is how very familiar it all feels. You could quite easily mistake this for a story from Season Five – we’ve got the regulation high-tech base, with a crew wearing regulation ‘futuristic’ clothes, and then before you know it, we’ve been invaded by the regulation monster-of-the-week, and it’s even a monster from last season!

What’s quite clever about the introduction of the Ice Warriors to the story is just how they play it all. Obviously, coming to this story forty-something years later, I’m well aware that the Ice Warriors are the enemy this time around. As soon as we see the first member of the Moonbase killed, we can see quite clearly who our enemy is, as it’s the same effective ‘death’ effect that they had in their last appearance.

Just in case the effect of their sonic arm weapons didn’t give it away, you’ve then got that voice. The Ice Warrior’s way of speaking is one of the most distinctive of any alien from the programme’s history, to the point that when they returned in a story earlier this year I had work colleagues who don’t even watch the show mimicking their whispery tones in the build up to the episode.

And yet… they still try to build up the mystery. We get lots of Point-Of-View shots as the creatures lumber down the corridor towards the main control room, and our crew stare fearfully into the camera. Somewhere around the halfway point, we catch a glimpse of an arm, and then a few minutes later, we’re treated to the back of a shoulder, too. I have to admit that I was getting a bit frustrated by it all. It’s an Ice Warrior! We know it’s an Ice Warrior! Just show us!

The best thing is that when they do finally swing the camera round to show us the full creature, it’s not an Ice Warrior! Haha! The whole thing has been a game, tricking you into thinking you know what to expect, then completely pulling the rug out from underneath you. We do get the standard model of Warrior turning up within a couple of minutes to do some more killing, and to reassure you that you were right, to some extent, but it’s a great reveal.

The story isn’t afraid to set it’s cards out on the table early, either. The Doctor and his friends don’t actually appear for the first eight minutes of the episode, which gives us plenty of time in the company of our guest cast, getting used to the world in which we’ll be spending the next few weeks. It seems obvious that Osgood is being set up as one of the main characters for the story, and he heads off to the Moonbase and even blows Miss Kelly – another obvious main guest – a kiss from his T-Mat cubicle.

It feels like he’s going to be our point of reference for the group up on the Moon, but then he’s killed facing down one of our unseen Warriors before the Doctor has even shown his face in the tale. It’s quite brutal in a way, and perfectly in keeping with the kind of throwaway deaths we had in The Invasion, too.

It’s a good start for the story, and I’m actually quite excited top have the Ice Warriors back on the scene, which is always a good sign. It feels nice to have what I’m going to describe as a ‘traditional’ story (when what I really mean is that although the repetitive format of Season Five started to grow tired by the end, it’s nice to see it again after a bit of a break), and I’m eager to move on.

27 August 2013

It is with deepest regret that DWO announces the passing of Classic Series Doctor Who Actor, Christopher Burgess.

Christopher was perhaps best known to Doctor Who fans for appearing in the Classic Series, 2nd Doctor adventure; The Enemy Of The World as Swann, and in the 3rd Doctor adventures; Terror Of The Autons as Professor George Philips, and Planet Of The Spiders as Barnes.

Christopher's other career highlights include; Z Cars, The Medusa Touch and Jossy's Giants.

DWO would like to extend our sympathies to Christopher's family and friends.

[Source: Toby Hadoke]

27 August 2013

It is with deepest regret that DWO announces the passing of Classic Series Doctor Who Actor, Michael Goldie.

Michael was perhaps best known to Doctor Who fans for appearing in the Classic Series, 1st Doctor adventures; The Dalek Invasion Of Earth as Jack Craddock, and The Chase as Mire Beast, and the 2nd Doctor adventure; The Wheel In Space as Elton Laleham.

Michael's other career highlights include; Robin Hood: Prince Of ThievesLady Jane and Coronation Street.

DWO would like to extend our sympathies to Michael's family and friends.

[Source: Neil Marsh]

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