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21 June 2013

It’s been almost three weeks since we launched our 50th Anniversary Poll, giving you the chance to rate the Doctor’s televised adventures, in an attempt to find fan’s number one story. 

In 2009, Doctor Who Magazine’s ‘Mighty 200’ poll rated The Caves of Androzani to be the number one story of all time, with the following story - The Twin Dilemma - consigned to last place. It’s been great to watch entries coming in over the last few weeks, and we’re somewhat pleased to say that neither of those stories occupy the position they did in the last poll, so there’s still everything to play for! 

Don’t forget that it’s not too late to get your votes in - you’ll find a link to download the survey form at the bottom of this post. All you need to do is rank the stories that you’ve seen between ‘1’ (terrible!) and ’10’ (the best of the best!) and email them to us at 50yearpoll@drwho-online.co.uk .

To give you something of a hint as to where things currently stand, here’s a story from each Doctor, along with it’s current placement in the chart (there’s a total of 239 positions), and it’s current average score. The scores alter slightly every time a new entry arrives in our inbox, so these tales could well end up in different places by the time the final votes are in! 


The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve 153    (63.58%)

The Space Pirates         236    (41.95%)

The Time Warrior         50    (77.45%) 

The Armageddon Factor         200    (57.36%) 

Earthshock                 23    (82.50%)

Vengeance on Varos         125    (67.67)

Ghost Light                  81    (71.96)

The TV Movie                  142   (65.22%)

Father’s Day                  68      (73.67%)

Smith and Jones          117   (68.35%)

The Name of the Doctor          12   (84.19%) 

The survey is available in several different formats, which you can get hold of at the bottom of this post. There’s an interactive PDF, which you can fill in using Adobe Acrobat, or if you’re a Mac user, you can fill it in using Preview. 


You can also print out the survey form, write on manually, and then scan or photograph to send us your scores. Don’t worry - it doesn’t have to be printed in colour if you want to save your printer inks! 


Finally, both pages are available as JPGs, so you can open them up in Photoshop, Microsoft Paint, or any other image editor, and add your scores that way. 


As long as we can clearly read the scores you’re giving to each story, and they’re on the survey form, that’s absolutely fine. Please don’t just list them in the body of your email, though!


Once you’ve filled in your form, you’ll need to email it to us at 50yearpoll@drwho-online.co.uk before 31st July 2013. We’ll be analysing the results throughout August, and we’ll announce them in early September. 

Will there be a new favourite Doctor Who story in time for the programme’s 50th Anniversary? There’s only one way to find out - get voting!



(Link opens up a dropbox window, please select the 'download' button in the

top right-hand corner)




[Source: Doctor Who Online]


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

Day 171: The Evil of the Daleks, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I've often thought that if (when) I ever got my hands on a time machine, I'd quite like to visit Victorian England. Couldn't tell you why it's the top of my list, but I've always been fascinated by it. Even at school, the Victorian era was one of my favourites in history lessons. In many ways, I've always thought of Doctor Who being particularly suited to the era, too, and it seems many other's agree with me - several parts of the most recent season have been set there, and it's not been uncommon for the Doctor to visit in the past.

It's odd, then, to think that this episode marks the first time that we've actually seen this era in the series (yes, yes, pedants, the scene on the Marie Celeste during The Chase is technically set in Victorian times, but it was way out at sea, and might as well have been set in any generic past if it wasn't for the joke at the end, so I'm disqualifying it), almost five years in. Oh, and it's done beautifully. It's said a lot, but the BBC design department really do make a stunning job of this period, and this episode is no exception. Maxtible's drawing room has to be the crowning achievement, as it looks simply brilliant, and it's nice to have an episode from the story surviving so that we can really appreciate it.

Speaking of which, it's bloody lovely to see a Dalek again! We've had them in the series quite recently to welcome the new Doctor to the series, and I watched The Destroyers not all that long ago, but thanks to the gaps in the archives (and the lack of production of The Destroyers…) this is the first time I've actually seen a Dalek on screen, moving and everything, since The Daleks' Master Plan, and that feels like a lifetime ago. Technically, it was for the Doctor.

It's nice to see that the Daleks here are the same kind of manipulative ones seen in Power of the Daleks, and the cruel, terrifying version that we had in Master Plan, too. Yesterday's episode ended rather nicely with a Dalek screaming at Kennedy to identify himself (though it wasn't as good a cliffhanger as they had pretty consistently in their last tale), and then the resolution to that ending today? The Dalek exterminates him as soon as we're done with the reprise. Then it disappears, and Waterfield has something of a breakdown as he realises he'll have to dispose of the body. The Daleks really are at their best when their callous, and Whittaker knows exactly how to use them in the right way.

All that said, I'm sorry to say that the story still isn't really capturing me. I've seen this episode before (a long, long, time ago on a bored Sunday-afternoon viewing of the Lost in Time collection), and remembered it being pretty good, but this time around it still feels as if I'm waiting for things to get going. As ever, there's a lot to like, but it just don't seem to be doing very much. Maybe I'm being put off by the fact that people say it's one of the stone-cold 'classics' of Doctor Who, and my expectations are just set a little bit too high?

We do get our first introduction of Victoria in this episode though, as a captive of the Daleks, who seem obsessed with her weight. They're holding her prisoner as leverage with Waterfield, so that he'll help capture the Doctor and force him to conduct some experiments on Jamie. I complained yesterday that the plan to get the Doctor to the antiques shop was a bit round the houses… but now it makes even less sense! Surely it would have been quicker to knock the Doctor and Jamie out at Gatwick, transport them to 1886, tie Jamie up in the lab and force the Doctor to get to work under Dalek guard? Why all the messing about?

Victoria herself comes across as less obviously a companion as Sam Briggs did in the last story (heck, even Mollie seems to be a more likely candidate to step aboard the TARDIS at this point!), but it does have to be said that Debbie Watling does look beautiful in her first scenes. I've not seen much of Victoria's tenure outside of The Tomb of the Cybermen (as Deborah herself says on one of the DVD special features about this era - there's nothing left of there time on the show, really), so I'm hoping she'll blossom once she's out from under the Daleks' watchful eye-stalks.

20 June 2013

Confirmation on who will play the role of The 12th Doctor will be confirmed this Autumn, RadioTimes.com reports.

BBC insiders have told RadioTimes.com that filming on the Christmas special – to be followed by the full series – will not take place until the autumn – probably August, or even September.

According to sources the identity of The 12th Doctor is almost certain to be announced just prior to filming, which means that it is very likely that the new incarnation of the Time Lord will not be unveiled until late summer.

Initially the BBC had hoped to begin filming the Christmas special earlier, with some sources suggesting July as a potential date.

“Suffice to say we are completely on track” said a spokeswoman.

[Sources: RadioTimes.com]

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

Day 170: The Evil of the Daleks, Episode One

Dear diary,

In the early 1990s, The Evil of the Daleks was voted the best Doctor Who story ever by the readers of DWB. It had dropped a little in estimations by the time Doctor Who Magazine ran a similar poll five years later, coming in at number nine in the list, and in the 2009 Mighty 200 poll, it slipped even further, to number 18. Indeed, in Doctor Who Online’s very own 50th Anniversary Poll, it’s currently sitting at number 25! Despite this decline in opinion, it still has to be said that Evil has something of a reputation amongst Doctor Who fans as being pretty darn good.

It's perhaps surprising, then, that this first episode comes across as being just a bit of filler material. The impression I got from the opening to the episode is that the Doctor and Jamie were supposed to see the TARDIS heading off on the back of a truck (at the end of the last episode, the Doctor had already deduced that it had gone, and now they actively see it), and then Bob Hall is planted in one of the hangars to put the pair off the scent. He's then followed, and is knocked unconscious for it - his being followed is clearly not a part of the plan (Kennedy even plans to beat the Doctor and Jamie over the head to make sure that they don't discover anything). It then transpires that the pair were intended to come here, because there's a pack of matches planted to lead them on to the coffee bar. So why knock out Hall? It leads to his fleeing the city, and is surely a waste of a valuable ally?

Once the Doctor and Jamie have made it to the coffee shop (where contemporary music helps to set the scene, though it's a shame to know that the Beatles' Paperback Writer had to be removed from the soundtrack), they're met by Perry. Perry has been sent by Waterfield (who also sent kennedy to plant the matches and, I'm guessing, Hall to start the whole thing rolling) to ask the Doctor to come to the antiques shop at 10pm. Why the overly-complex plan? Surely seeing the TARDIS being carted away - and then being asked by Hall at Gatwick to head to the antiques shop if they want to see the police box again - would be enough to get them there?

The whole thing is an exercise in delaying the pair until the story is ready for them. I don't know if the story was intended to be a six-parter which was then extended out to seven (in the same way as The Mind Robber being given an extra episode late in the day) or if it was just needed to get things set up ready for the main tale, but either way, it's odd.

That's not to say that it's a bad thing, mind. There's plenty to like about this episode, not least the fact that we get to spend some more time in the company of Troughton and Hines again. I'd not realised that such a large part of the story kept them in the 1960s (I'd always assumed that they stumbled into the Victorian era pretty quickly once the story got started), but it's odd just how well they really do fit in here. Whereas in The War Machines, at the end of last season, the sight of William Hartnell climbing out of a cab was unusual, it doesn't feel at all out of place to see (or, at least, hear) Troughton doing so. Considering how much time Ian and Barbara spent wishing the TARDIS would land in the 1960s, it turns up there an awful lot these days (I make it The Massacre of St Bartholemew's Eve, The War Machines, now here, and there's a couple more trips to this period in the next couple of seasons).

Not only that, but the ship keeps returning to the city on the same day! In the fantastic History of the Universe in 100 Objects book from last year, there's a line describing the 20th of July 1966 as being the day that WOTAN launched his War Machines, the Chameleons returned hundreds of missing people to Gatwick airport, and the Daleks were at large in their time-travelling antiques shop. Surely that sentence really sums up just why this era of the show is so fantastic?

Despite all the running around, and knowing vaguely what's going on, which runs the risk of lessening the tension (It's a shame, for example, to know that the Daleks are going to be a part of the story - of course they're in the title - because it takes away some of the tension of Waterfield arguing with his 'unseen masters'), there is enough here to hook me in to the tale. I don't know, for example, what the Daleks need from the man. Or why they've stolen the TARDIS (the Daleks have time travel, so it can't be that… are they just trying to capture the Doctor's attention?), or what the time-travelling antiques shop has to do with anything, and I'm keen to move on and find out, so I guess that's the story doing something right!

But to come in the top 25 Doctor Who stories ever…? I think it's got a way to go, yet…

19 June 2013

DWO's upcoming, one-hour, full cast audio drama celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who started post production today.

One Fine Time Lord - a special project for Children in Need, tells the story of the early days of Gallifrey and how one senior Time Lord, Lord Archeron has a plan to change the planet forever - with no Doctor to come to the rescue...

The production of the story took place from 3rd-5th June at Anglia Ruskin Studios in Cambridge and saw a whole host of professional actors gather together to tell the story and Colin Baker even popped up to give the guys some encouragement!

The show will be in post production over the coming months and will be free to download right here on DWO. Further details of the full story are being kept under wraps for now but Writer / Director, Brendan Sheppard said:

"There will be some surprising revelations about Time Lord culture as an old relic from the past is about to cause a serious amount of damage to the people of Gallifrey"

He also commented that:

"The cast and crew were simply wonderful and they worked extremely hard, at their own expense, to bring you this extremely special story, we hope you will enjoy it and donate whatever you can, directly to Children in Need. Who knows where this story might end up and there is the strong possibility that this might be the first of many..."

We shall keep you updated with more on this exciting project!

[Source: Doctor Who Online]

19 June 2013

Torchwood star, Eve Myles, who played Gwen Cooper in the series, recently spoke to BBC Breakfast regarding the future of the show.

Watch the Torchwood segment of the interview in the video below:

[Sources: BBC Breakfast]

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

Day 169: The Faceless Ones, Episode Six

Dear diary,

The bad news: although Ben and Polly do actually turn up to say goodbye to the Doctor, it comes as a scene at the very end of the episode, following five-and-three-quarter episodes in which they're barely mentioned. With Dodo, it almost feels less of a shame, because she's only been there for a few stories, but with these two… Ben and Polly have been a part of the programme for around a year, they've been present at the very first regeneration, they've encountered Daleks and Cybermen and all manner of monsters in-between… and then they just sort of vanish. A real, real shame. Much as I love the Lloyd era of Doctor Who, and as much as I'm willing to sing its praises from the highest of the rooftops, this feels like a massive mis-step.

The good news: when they do show their faces to say goodbye, it's absolutely fantastic. It's the programme judging a departure absolutely right - had this come at the end of a story that really showcased the pair (as many of their adventures have) then it could be put down as one of the best ever leaving scenes. It's filled with emotion, as Polly tearfully makes her goodbyes, and Ben is ecstatic at the thought of being back in his own time - and even on the same day (what are the chances?). The whole thing feels very real, so it's a shame it's undermined by the seeming lack of care for the duo in the rest of this story.

It's the Doctor, I think, who really sells the moment to me though. I commented the other day that this incarnation seems to give an air of always being one step ahead of the game, and you get the impression that he's known since the moment they arrived at Gatwick that this may be a parting of the ways for his little group. Maybe that's why he's been so keen to accept others under his wing throughout the story - to get used to the idea of not having Ben and Polly around? For the Second Doctor, they really are a part of life. 'The thing is,' Polly tells the Doctor, 'this is our world…', and he sadly agrees with her: 'Yes, you're right. You're lucky. I never got back to mine…'. It's another lovely little hint at the Doctor's past, and it fits beautifully into the scene here.

He goes on to tell Ben that he can re-join his ship and become an Admiral, and that Polly can look after him. Thing is, in my mind, that's just not what happens. It's too nice, too neat. Real life just doesn't work like that. I've always had a future in mind for Ben and Polly, and making my way through their stories just cements it in my mind: of course the pair plan to be together, and I imagine that they agree to a date in the Inferno club (where else?) for a few days time. Polly never shows, though, instead sending a note to say that she can't - her family will never approve.

The don't see much of each other for the next twenty years, as they go about their separate lives, and eventually each of them settles down and marries someone else. I'd like to think that they do meet up on the night that Mondas approaches Earth in 1986 (there's a short story about it in one of the short Trips books), but they never end up together in my head. They always regret it, though. Bittersweet, perhaps, but that's always the way I've imagined life after the Doctor for this pair. It's a far cry from orphanages in India…

I wonder if I'd feel more forgiving towards the absence of these two from most of the story is Sam had opted to stay on with the Doctor and Jamie at the end? The offer is there, but she turns it down. She even asks Jamie if he might stay a little longer with her, but he's too close to the Doctor to abandon him, now. Much as I think the accent might get on my nerves in the long run, I'd enjoy Sam sticking with the pair for a little longer - the TARDIS has been stolen, after all, so they're going to be in the area for a while at least…

The story itself is perfectly good in this final episode, too, managing to be both epic in scale (this is probably the only time you're going to see me describe a car park at Gatwick as being 'epic in scale', but it is for Doctor Who at this point!), and intimate too as the Doctor makes his negotiations with the Chameleons. If anything, though, I think the thing I'm going to miss most is the narration using the phrase 'Raw-State Chameleon' every few minutes…

On the whole, I have enjoyed The Faceless Ones, but my interest in the story (and the way things hang together) has been on a bit of a downward trend across the six episodes. The latter half certainly wasn't as strong as the start of the tale - and it felt in places as though concepts and characters were simply abandoned when the writers got bored with them. Even Sam, who was such an obvious companion for a while, ends up being somewhat relegated in the last two episodes. A four-part version would, I think, have been fantastic. And now, we're onto a seven-parter! The first since Marco Polo, and the longest story (I'm discounting Daleks' Master Plan because, as I argued lots at the time, it's really lots of little stories) we've had since then, too. But it's the Daleks, who I've grown to love, so it's all to play for…

18 June 2013

Jenna-Lousie Coleman has been added to the cast of BBC One's new adaptation of PD James's Pride And Prejudice sequel, Death Comes To Pemberley.

Coleman will be taking a leading role as Lizzie's sister (and Wickham's wife – Lydia), who arrives at Pemberley one night, six years after the conclusion of Austen's novel, screaming that her husband has been murdered. In fact, he hasn't – but he is found with the dead body of his travelling companion, prompting a murder investigation that casts a shadow over Pemberley and its residents. 

Also joining the all-star cast is Rebecca Front (The Thick of It), who will appear as Lizzie's vociferous mother, Mrs Bennet, with The Vicar of Dibley's James Fleet playing her resigned spouse, Mr Bennet. Penelope Keith will star as haughty aristocrat, Lady Catherine de Burgh, while Trevor Eve (Waking the Dead) will portray local magistrate, Sir Selwyn Hardcastle.

Front's The Thick of It co-star Joanna Scanlan will appear as Pemberley's housekeeper, Mrs Reynolds, while The White Queen's Eleanor Tomlinson is to play Darcy's niece, Georgiana. She is being courted by dishy attorney, Henry Alveston (James Norton) and her cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, played by Silent Witness's Tom Ward

Filming on the production is to begin this month on location in Yorkshire, with Chatsworth estate rumoured to be the chosen location for Pemberley. The production will be directed by BAFTA-winning Daniel Percival (Dirty War, Place of Execution) and produced by Origin Pictures

[Source: Radio Times]

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

Day 168: The Faceless Ones, Episode Five

Dear diary,

I think that since The Faceless Ones lost its firm grip on my attention and interest in yesterday’s episode, it’s fighting an up-hill battle to keep me invested in events. The biggest problem, I think, is that we’ve now not seen Ben or Polly for three whole episodes (and technically, we’ve not actually seen Polly since Episode One), and they leave in the next one! Dodo’s abrupt departure half-way through The War Machines is often hailed as one of the worst ways for a Doctor Who companion to leave the series, but at least her part in the story s over, and she was sent off for a break in the country! Ben and Polly were both kidnapped… and that’s sort of it!

I have a feeling that the odd way their final adventure is being handled is rather turning me off from the story. Every time the Doctor gets into a scrape with one of his stand in companions (we’ve now got Sam, Jean, and the real nurse Pinto fulfilling the role to varying capacities), I’m left wondering about where Ben and Polly are. I’m not sure they even get their token name-check in today’s episode, but grouped in with the now-captured Jamie as being one of the Doctor’s missing friends.

It’s a shame that I’m having my opinion of the story so coloured by this, because there’s still an awful lot to love here. You can take it as read that Troughton is on fine form (I really enjoyed his first scene pretending to be one of the Chameleons, and using the opportunity to gather more information about them), and he’s just as brilliant when he’s interrogating Meadows, too. It’s also becoming just as common for Jamie to be fab, too, and that’s true of this episode. His investigation of the satellite is great – he’s really becoming a proper Doctor Who companion now.

It also means that he gets to take in some of the great dialogue which is still (for the mots part) on offer in this story. ‘You seem to know a lot about it, Inspector,’ Jamie muses as he’s told the truth of what’s happening to the Chameleon Tours flights, and learns of the intelligence of the Chameleon’s leader, the Director. ‘Of course I do, Jamie,’ comes the reply, ‘I am the Director…’. It’s a ‘twist’ that anyone can see coming, but Jamie’s innocence means that we can completely buy his surprise at the situation.

Perhaps my favourite line in the episode – possibly, in the whole story – is the description given of the Doctor: ‘He is not of this Earth or this century. He has traveled through time and space. His knowledge is even greater than ours…’. It’s a great description (and very much in the vein of the speeches we’ll hear more of in the 21st century incarnation of the programme), and it’s a brilliant reminder that we still don’t really know all that much about him at this stage in the show’s life.

Much as I've loved the Gatwick airport setting to the story so far, I'm hoping that the shift through the clouds to the Chameleon's sattelite may help to give the final episode a boost before the story bows out. My biggest hope, though? I'm hoping Ben and Polly actually turn up again to say goodbye to the Doctor! If they end up going the way of Dodo, with Sam telling the Doctor that they send their goodbyes, I may scream!

17 June 2013

Actor Jennifer Lusk wants to know why she can’t play The Doctor in the BBC science fiction series, Doctor Who

“The Doctor is an alien with two hearts. Why can’t she be an alien with two hearts and two breasts“ she said. Lusk will star in a rom com set at a science fiction convention called Who Are You Supposed To Be? at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

Co-star Cameron K McEwan, better known in Doctor Who fan circles as the owner of Blogtor Who agrees. “Don’t we all want to be the Doctor? Maybe it’s time for a woman to take the mantle. That’s part of what the play addresses.”

Originally conceived as a tribute to fans in the 50th Anniversary year of Doctor Who, the play’s themes became more relevant on the announcement of Matt Smith’s departure earlier in the month.

“Once Matt Smith and the BBC had made their official announcement, the first thing declared by the tabloids is that he would be replaced by a woman,” said Who Are You Supposed To Be? writer, Keith Gow. “And the online discussions quickly mirrored the conflict in the play. Jen’s character likes to dress up as the Doctor. Cameron’s character doesn’t want a woman, because of tradition.”

The show isn’t just about a woman playing the Doctor, though. It is, at its core, a love story where the characters initially bond over pop culture references. As well as love, the show also tackles the issue of anxiety – and how we cope outside our comfort zones.

“It was important to us that the show wasn’t just about Doctor Who jokes or Batman references. We’ve all got different sides and I wanted to make sure the show captured that,” said Gow. “It would be easy to make a show that relies on in-jokes, but we definitely want to appeal to everyone. So it’s for people who fall in love, people who have awkward moments. All of us.”

Lusk and McEwan are about to begin rehearsals on the play, which they hope to tour after the thirteen-show run at Edinburgh Fringe. Two months out from the premiere, they are also trying to raise a little bit more money for costumes and publicity, for which you can donate here.

“My character, Ash, is dressed up as Peter Davison’s Doctor throughout the show. We need money to get that costume right. That’s her character – she likes to dress up! She spends hours making these costumes. The show needs to get that right,” Lusk explains.

“I get to dress up late in the show as well,” said McEwan. “But I can’t tell you who I dress as. As River Song is so fond of saying, ‘Spoilers!’”

With a decision on who will replace Matt Smith still pending, are the creators of this World Premiere romantic comedy about fans and fandom worried that the BBC might be bold and actually cast a woman in the role? Would that change the show?

“Writing is re-writing,” joked Lusk. “If we have to make a change, we’ll be fine. But I think the argument might go on well after an announcement is made. Besides, if the BBC is so bold as to cast a woman as the Doctor, the most important thing is that little girls watching the show can look up and start to believe they could be the Doctor, too.”

Event Information:

Binka Boo Productions presents... Who Are You Supposed To Be? by Keith Gow

Starring: Jennifer Lusk and Cameron McEwan.
Directed by: Emrys Matthews.

C Venues – C Aquila, 14th-26th August 2013, 15:40pm.

Link: https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/theatre/who-are-you-supposed-to-be

[Source: Cameron K McEwan]

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

Day 167: The Faceless Ones, Episode Four

Dear diary,

It's a shame, considering the amount of praise I had for the way this story was treating Jamie as a companion from history in the first two episodes, that there's several moments in today's entry that left me thinking more about how out of place something felt than simply enjoying the story. Indeed, on one occasion, I spent so long wondering about where Jamie got his passport from that I actively zoned out from the audio for a few minutes, and had to skip back. It's pleasing that we get an explanation for this later on in the episode (indeed, there's a scene which seems to exist in part simply to explain away how the Highlander has made it this far into his journey).

Still, though, it felt really out of place when Frazer Hines' narration talks of Jamie noticing Sam's airline ticket sticking out of her top pocket, then sneaks it away from her. I could argue that he's spent so much time watching the Chameleon Tours checking-in desk that he's figured out you need a ticket to travel, but it still felt out of place at the time. And then he's managed to make his way through the airport (a few episodes back, it was being painted as a vast alien landscape in his eyes), on to a plane, and then he knows where to run when he's feeling the need to be air sick. It all just felt a bit too jarring for the character, and I think I'd have been able to buy it better had Ben been the one filling this role.

Ben, and Polly, though, are still absent from the story! It's strange, considering that it's their final outing in the TARDIS, that we've not had two episodes in a row to feature neither of them. I'm assuming that they'll be back tomorrow to round off the story, but it's an odd decision all the same. Still, I think the saddest thing is that I'm not especially missing them. I don't mean that to sound negative - I'm sure anyone who's been following The 50 Year Diary over the last six weeks or so will have noticed how much I love the pair, but Sam and Jamie are fulfilling the companion roles more than amply, so there's no time to mourn our swinging sixties teens.

You may be able to detect that I'm slightly more puke-warm towards this episode of The Faceless Ones that I have been to any of the others so far. I think, unfortunately, that we're suffering a bit from the return of the six parter. There's lots to love in this one, and my notes are full with notes on great dialogue, as is usual for Season Four ('Ah, you're still thinking in Earth terms…' / 'And I intend to keep on doing so!'), but I think things may just be dragging a little in the middle. We get a great revelation here that the Commandant's secretary (?) has been phoning all the airports that Chameleon Tours fly to (and there's a great line slipped in about how much that will have cost - it's a little thing but it helps to make it all the more real), and she reports that the flights never arrive. Other airports have their passengers collected, taken away… and that's it.

It would be a great moment for the story, with some proof to the Commandant that there really is something shady being done right under his nose, in the heart of his beloved airport, but it comes after we've seen a plane full of holidaymakers suddenly vanish without a trace. Had we watched this scene yesterday, just before we witness the plane empty in a matter of seconds, it may have had more of an impact. As it is, the whole thing falls a bit flat.

I'm not even sure that the survival of the episode would have helped greatly. The main set-piece here is the transformation of the aeroplane into a spaceship, which is described on the soundtrack as 'hovering above the clouds, the huge wings fold in…'. Looking at the tele-snaps (there's two for this moment), I can't tell if it would have looked quite good or a bit ropey. Sadly, I have a feeling it might have been the latter - it almost looks a bit animated in the pictures. Still, in my mind, it looked awesome as the wings folded in, so perhaps it's a good thing we can't watch it?

Oh, and one last thing - if I can keep track of the 'arc' involving the First Doctor's relationship with history, then I can keep track of the Second Doctor's 'arc' towards developing a Sonic Screwdriver. We've had scenes in The Power of the Daleks, in which he (tries) to open a lock by finding the right frequency on his recorder (and that's a point, we've not seen it in a while. I knew they phased it out, but I expected to notice!), and now we've got him using a regular screwdriver to open the lock on a cupboard. Another season from now, he'll put two-and-two together…

15 June 2013

Four stars who have appeared in Doctor Who have been awarded honours in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours.

Julian Glover who appeared in The Crusade as Richard The Lionheart, and in City Of Death as Scaroth, has been awarded a CBE.
Claire Bloom who appeared in The End Of Time as The Woman has been awarded a CBE.
David Haig who appeared in The Leisure Hive as Pangol has been awarded an MBE.
Rowan Atkinson who appeared in the Comic Relief spinoff The Curse Of Fatal Death as The Doctor, has been awarded a CBE. 

+  For a full list of the honours, visit the Gov.UK website.

[Sources: Neil MarshGov.UK]

15 June 2013

As a Doctor Who website, posting a news item relating to missing Doctor Who episodes is a particularly conflictive task. On one hand you want to hold off on posting news due to the possible reaction you might get from smaller circles of fandom, whereas on the other hand, it's surely our duty to report it - after all, news is news, right?

Some of our readers may remember a news item we posted a few years ago about the possibility that The Web Of Fear may have been found - note the words 'possibility' and 'may'. While we also added that our source was reliable in the past and had no reason to disbelieve them, this particular news item turned out to hit a dead end and despite the majority of our readers who were grateful for the reporting of the story, we did face a backlash from some smaller circles of fandom on online forums.

A couple of days ago, Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool News, posted a news item relating to some of the rumours that have been doing the rounds for the past few months - rumours that, up until now, we have avoided reporting on.

The rumour is that a considerable number of lost Doctor Who episodes have been found by "an eccentric engineer who worked for broadcasters across Africa with a taste for science fiction and a habit of taking things for safe keeping".

DWO can confirm that we have been approached with news from several high-profile sources, some of which confirm these rumours and some that conflict with them and the actual figure of the number of episodes rumoured to have been found.

Whilst it would be easy to blurt out everything we have been told, we retain the caution from previous rumours and hoaxes, and will simply hold out for official confirmation - when and if it comes. What we will say is that *should* the rumours be true, despite the initial excitement at the possibility, it would be wise to sit back and let the BBC do what they need to do to secure these episodes *if* in fact they have been found.

We of course encourage debate and discussion which you can take part in on the dedicated DWO Forums Missing Episodes thread using the 'Discuss' button below.

[Sources: Bleeding Cool News; Doctor Who Online]

15 June 2013
8/10 a

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

Day 166: The Faceless Ones, Episode Three

Dear Diary,

There’s an episode of Adam Adamant Lives! (sadly, the only one from the first series that’s missing from the archives), in which a train mysteriously vanishes, only to later re-appear pulling into Waterloo station… full of skeletons! It’s a scene that a number of people believe to be from Doctor Who (Indeed, I used to work with a chap who swore blind that it was a Jon Pertwee story), possibly because it’s such a bizarre image.

I’ve said it a couple of times since Innes Lloyd took over the producer’s chair – quite often in stories written by Ian Stuart Black – but much of the stuff in this episode really could have come from an episode of Adam Adamant Lives!, The Avengers, or whatever. There’s no aliens on display (even if they are present), and much of the story hinges around the Doctor finally managing to convince the powers-that-be there’s genuinely something wrong at Gatwick airport.

The final shot, in which we see a plane filled with excited young tourists suddenly left empty is fantastic – and very reminiscent of the kind of striking image that you’d find in action/adventure serials of this period. The only real Doctor Who twist is that we’ve been told these planes are going up higher than expected – right the way into space. As I’ve said before: this may not really be Doctor Who, but I love it.

One of the things that works the best is the Doctor himself being placed into the format of a 1960s adventure serial. All I seem to do lately is sing the praises of Patrick Troughton, but once again he proves why he simply is the Doctor as he tries to convince the Commandant and the Inspector that there’s more going on here than they may care to believe. He demonstrates a kind of cooling gun on a man he suspects to be an alien duplicate, before going on to muse to the man that he’s sure he’s seen him before – he must have a double!

I spoke a lot in the First Doctor’s era about Hartnell’s transformation from crotchety old man to the person we think of as being the Doctor, and I think that The Faceless Ones might be the best example of Troughton becoming the person we think of as being the Second Doctor. All through his stories so far, he’s perfectly played the quiet Doctor, coming across as being innocent and child like (and it’s not all an act, I don’t think), while really standing back and keeping an eye on events. It’s obvious in The Underwater Menace, as he stops the spear from hitting a girl, and stirs up a conversation with Zaroff to try and uncover the professor’s true intentions. It’s even more present here, as he joyfully revels in being one step ahead of the aliens for the most part. The Doctor’s really enjoying this.

Watching television last night, an advert came on for the DVD release of a film starring Pauline Collins. and I pointed her out to Ellie as ‘the companion in the story I’m currently watching’. And that’s accurate! If we can count Kylie Minogue, and David Morrisey as companions in the 2009 specials, then we surely have to count Sam (she’s from Liverpool, you know) as being one, too.

It’s strange, coming after an episode in which I’ve been praising just how well the Second Doctor interacts with Ben and Jamie (and usually Polly, when she’s not been kidnapped), that our two most experienced companions are totally dispensed with in this episode, and replaced with a new girl. With the benefit of 40-something year’s hindsight, I know Pauline Collins isn’t going to be stepping aboard the TARDIS in a few day’s time, but it’s clearly the way the character is being written here.

She’s introduced as an intelligent, plucky young girl, she’s got a character quirk (did I mention that she’s from Liverpool? It was brought up three times in as many minutes in yesterday’s episode, so I thought I’d better say something about it), the Doctor groups her in with Jamie at one point when speaking, and there’s no mention of any family outside of her brother, who’s disappeared (that’s why she’s down from Liverpool). It’s interesting, at least to me, to have a potential companion being introduced with such a thick accent, less than 18 months after Dodo’s was shifted around the country before being phased out.

If anything, at this stage, the accent makes it even more obvious that Sam is to be our new time traveller, as having some kind of ‘quirk’ is a bit of a pre-requisite for a companion at this stage. Since taking over, Lloyd and Davis has introduced Ben (the ‘East-ender’), Polly (the ‘posh girl’) and Jamie (the ‘Scottish lad from the past’). In the next story we’ll be adding Victoria to our list (the ‘Victorian girl’). Still obvious as it may seem, I’m ever so glad we won’t be getting Sam full-time – that voice could grate after a while…

14 June 2013
8/1 a

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

Day 165: The Faceless Ones, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I think this might be the first time that it's really clear just why the Doctor and Jamie travel together for such a long time. They're so brilliant together! Even while they're on the run from the authorities, trying to solve a murder, and having to work out what's happened to their friend, they really seem to be enjoying the adventure. At times, 1960s Doctor Who can feel like simply heading from one terrifying ordeal to the next (just a few weeks ago, Ben and Polly had to endure fighting the Cybermen one day before heading right off to do battle with the Daleks - no time for a rest in between!), so it's lovely to see a Doctor and companion having a great time together.

It also gives us the opportunity to see them really sparking off each other, and the friendship between Troughton and Hines shows through wonderfully, too. There's plenty of fun moments here - hiding behind the newspapers is great, and Hines' narration on the soundtrack, when he explains that not only is Jamie's paper foreign, but also upside down, had me laugh out loud. Even Ben manages to get in on the fun, while the trio hold a private meeting in a photo booth. Thankfully, there's a tele snap of them pulling funny faces at the camera when they get caught huddled in the machine.

We're seeing Jamie being used to good effect as a historical character, too. It's often said (more by fans than anyone, but still) that a companion drawn from history wouldn't work in the show today, as you can't latch onto them in the same way you can a character from the present day. Here, though, it works brilliantly. We've already had Jamie's fear of the 'flying metal beasties' in yesterday's episode, and here we get a full minute of ambient airport noise, as Jamie looks around the huge concourse, trying to make sense of it all. It's perfectly simple to latch onto: if you've ever been a child, lost in a busy supermarket, confused by all the hustle and bustle around you, then you're able to sympathise with Jamie here. It takes the world of Gatwick airport (as I mused yesterday, it was already a place not many of the viewers would have been in 1967), and makes it just as alien as Vulcan, or Atlantis.

I worried, when Polly 'changed', that it may lack a bit of impact. The Macra Terror used the idea of a companion being taken over to the wrong side so well, and I feared that this would fall flat coming so soon after that one. Thankfully, though, it's been fantastic, and it's different enough in tone to the last story that it doesn't feel as rehashed as I thought it might. The crowning moment has to be when Ben opens the packing crate and finds the real Polly shut inside it, unresponsive. Yesterday, I mentioned that the Doctor and Jamie finding nothing but paper cups in the crate was a good moment, but here it gets turned on its head and used as a terrifying image. We don't often see the companions in a state like this…

There's plenty of other things in my notes for today that I could pick up on, but I think I'll stick with just one for now. The Doctor making his escape from the Commandant's office is a scene that you'd never see on Doctor Who these days, as our hero stands in the middle of an airport, holding a suspicious item, and declares 'one step nearer, and I'll blow you all to smithereens!'

14 June 2013

Doctor Who Writer, Neil Gaiman, was recently interviewed on BBC current affairs programme, Newsnight, regarding his career and current projects.

Our friends over at Blogtor Who have embedded the video, which you can view below:

Neil Gaiman's Doctor Who credits include 6.4: The Doctor's Wife and 7.12: Nightmare In Silver.

[Sources: Newsnight; Blogtor Who]

14 June 2013

They’re back! Actor David Banks, known for his portrayal of the CyberLeader in the Classic Series of Doctor Who, presents The ArcHive Tapes: Cybermen - an audio book series originally released in 4 parts in 1989.

This new 4 CD set is a high definition re-mastering of that audiobook series, the hypothesised history of the Cyber Race, written, narrated and entirely reconstructed by the CyberLeader himself.

A gripping retelling of their origins and history, fully dramatised with vivid effects, and original music heard here for the first time, it includes exclusive video interviews with Andrew Skilleter and David Banks.

Just when you thought the Cybermen would never return, here they are again – large as life and ten times as scary! The ArcHive Tapes: Cybermen. This is one small purchase for a human, one huge cyber leap for humankind.

View the YouTube Trailer below:

+  Available on CD at: www.thearchivetapescybermen.com

+  Available on iTunes here.

[Sources: Explore Multimedia]


13 June 2013
8/10 Day 164: The Faceless Ones, Episode One

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

Day 164: The Faceless Ones, Episode One

Dear diary,

This may feel like an odd place to bring it up, but I've been dreading the Pertwee era. Even though he was my first Doctor (well, my first BBC, Doctor. Peter Cushing was the first Doctor I ever actually watched), I've always considered him my least favourite, and his era isn't one that I recall enjoying all that much. There's several reasons why, which we'll get to later in the year.

The reason I mention it here is that one of the things I've always thought I didn't like about that early 1970s period of the programme was that it was set on contemporary Earth. I seem to recall that I was just never all that keen on the idea. It's a good thing, perhaps, that at the moment, these contemporary Earth stories are doing very well with me. The War Machines was my highest-rated First Doctor story, and The Faceless Ones is off to a good start in this episode.

It might help that, as I've said before, I really do love the look and the feel of the 1960s. Seeing things from this era thrown up onto screen is great fun for me, and that's probably affecting how much I'm enjoying things. Add to that the fact that this is still a very new kind of story for Doctor Who to tell, and I think you're onto a winner. Hopefully, the magic will hold out long enough for me to reappraise the Third Doctor's time on the planet when it comes…

As I watched this episode, I was met with the nagging sense that I'd seen it before at some point. I'm wondering if I might have watched it on the Lost in Time DVD in the past, possibly following on from my first viewing of The Moonbase. Certainly, I'd seen the arrival of the TARDIS on the runway before now (though I don't think I'd appreciated before just how vast in scale it is!), and I'm sure I've watched the Doctor and Jamie battling with the officials about their passports. Equally, when the Commandant asked to see inside the packing crate at the Chameleon Tours hangar, I vaguely knew that there'd be plastic cups in there.

This has turned into another case of appreciating things far more when they're being seen in order, though. As I've said above, the scale to this episode really is vast, from the opening shots of aeroplanes coming in to land, to the high shot of the TARDIS materialising and the policeman chasing our regulars, there's a sense of scale to things here that we've not had an awful lot of in the programme. Plus, it's all filmed at Gatwick airport! In 1967, this isn't a place that many viewers will have been to, and that probably added to all the magic just that little bit.

We're given plenty of opportunity to look at it, as well. They're really getting their money's worth out of the location. The first three minutes of the episode are (mostly) the Doctor and his friends being chased to some high-tempo music and acoustic airport noise. All this brevity is then cut through when Polly witnesses a murder, and the Doctor's got a mystery to solve.

It doesn't stop the fast tempo of the episode, though, or the amount of humour that's involved. Jamie's initial description of an aeroplane as being a 'flying beastie' is brilliant, and even more so when Polly tells them what she's just seen, and Jamie wonders if one of the 'beasties' could be the murderer. We also get plenty of comedy (at least to start with) from the Commandant, as he tries to clear the obstruction to the runway ('What was it? It was a police box!?!'). It's a scene that I can perfectly imagine Nick Courtney playing as the Brigadier, which is perhaps another good sign for that era?

It's great fun watching the Doctor and Jamie argue about their passports while trying to convince people that there really has been a murder, and then the pair continue to delight as they head off to the hangar once more to search for the body. Troughton looks just right in a Sherlock Homes role, as he studies the surroundings with his magnifying glass.

As I watched the episode, Ellie was sat next to me (though not paying attention - she was getting on with some work on her laptop). The thing that did rouse her interest was the first shot of the burnt arm as it appears from behind a doorway. It has to be said that it's pretty effective, and works just as well when it's repeated later on, peeking out from under a cloak as the creature is led away to the airport's sick bay.

The shot of the two men carrying the creature up the escalators is nice (again showing the scale of the room, though perhaps more through unusual framing than anything else…), though it would have been nice to see a different angle on the scene. I'd more or less worked out that the cliffhanger would be that we'd see the face of the creature up-close, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that I was wrong. The hood of the cloak comes down, we see the back of the creature's head - just as burnt and painful looking as the arm… and then the credits kick in! We're left to wonder just what it might be. Brilliant stuff.

13 June 2013

There are some cool new Doctor Who Tees and accessories now available from our friends (and big Doctor Who fans) over at TV Store Online

Have you ever wanted a Dalek bath towel, or a TARDIS bath robe to slide on after your morning shower? Or what about a Doctor Who t-shirt that shows off your love for The Doctor and the show itself to other fans out there but still looks fashion friendly? Have no fear, because TV Store Online is here and if you're looking for the best place to grab a Doctor Who Tee, your search is over.

It takes one to know one, doesn't it? So why not find the other Doctor Who fans in your life by showing your admiration for The Doctor with a cool T-shirt? TV Store Online offers a fantastic selection of Doctor Who Tees for adults and juniors that will have everyone staring at you because of your impeccable taste in all things geek culture and Science Fiction.

From The Big Bang Theory to My Little Pony, TV Store Online.com have thousands of officially licensed Tees available on the store's website and fans of The Doctor need not worry about shipping from the States to the UK either - they ship worldwide! Looking for something a bit more dressy or something for your girlfriend? TV Store Online also has Doctor Who Polo Shirts too. Are you looking for a Wibbly Wobbly Quote Doctor Who Tee or a High Council of the Time Lords Tee? TV Store Online has all of your Doctor Who T-shirt and merchandise needs covered.   

Here are some samples of TV Store Online's selection of Doctor Who T-shirts:

Doctor Who Robot Exterminate Splatter Charcoal Gray T-shirt

Beware the Daleks...Exterminate! Exterminate! Doctor Who doesn't get any more stylish or cooler than with this Doctor Who Dalek Exterminate Splatter Charcoal Gray T-Shirt. It's an officially licensed item and is made of 100% cotton. Everyone loves a Dalek, so why not wear it to your next convention that will have everyone that walks by you saying, "Exterminate!" It's also incredibly fashionable!

Doctor Who Tardis Time Vortex Phone Booth Ice Grey Adult T-shirt

The Doctor is cool and stylish and so is this fashion friendly Doctor Who T-Shirt. This distressed print in Ice Grey features The TARDIS hurtling through time. Where will The Doctor stop next? We never thought we'd call The TARDIS sexy, but look at this shirt! For a Doctor Who fan who wants to have that certain something with the ladies. 

Doctor Who Space Vortex Black Adult T-shirt

Hurry and grab up one of these Matt Smith Doctor Who Tees! With the 11th Doctor leaving the show these shirts are certain to become a collectors item in no time. Don't you wish you still had all of the cool T-Shirts that you had when you were a kid? Can you imagine how much one of these Matt Smith Doctor Who Tees will be going for on Ebay in three or four years? Reveal yourself to other Doctor Who fans at the next convention when you wear this super cool Matt Smith 11th Doctor, Black Doctor Who Tee. If you don't grab one now you'll need The TARDIS when you want one next season. Get 'em before they are gone!

+  For all these and more, check out TVStoreOnline.com.

[Sources: TV Store Online]

12 June 2013

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

Day 163: The Macra Terror, Episode Four

Dear diary,

No matter how much I've praised the way that the Doctor and his companions slip away un-noticed at the end of adventures lately, it's undeniably great to see them here enjoying the good feeling of their victory. The Macra are defeated (there were such things as Macra!), the colony is free, and they're holing a dancing competition to celebrate. Goodo!

The only thing is… I've gotten the impression throughout this story - and this episode in particular - that the Macra are the ones who provide for the colony. They use the humans to mine the gasses that keep them alive, and in return they give them food and shelter etc. Is their entire colony not going to collapse in on itself now that the main source of 'employment' is finished with? Maybe there's more to it that we just don't see in these four episodes, but it did leave me wondering about the future a bit…

I've spent a lot of time in this story talking about how scary the Macra can be if they're imagined in the right way, but the sight of them in the control room, operating machinery, could swing either way. On the one hand, it could be terribly sinister (the narration describes one of them using a giant claw to push a button, which could look quite effective), or on the other it could just look funny. And a bit naff, if we're talking about the Macra looking like they do in the tele snaps.

I also have to wonder what effect it has when it turns out that the Macra are the voice behind the Controller. In some ways, I rather like the idea that the Macra are more than just the creeping monsters they've been painted as throughout the story so far. But then once the lead crab had started talking, I couldn't help but picture him with a little pencil mustache and a monocle. Couldn't even tell you why (the voice certainly doesn't sound like it comes from a crab wearing a monocle), that's just the image that formed in my head. Far from being scary, it's actually quite amusing. I'm sure that wasn't the case on screen at the time, though!

That said, this is another funny episode. There's lots of humour involved from all parties. The aforementioned celebration at the end of the episode is good fun, with the Doctor and his friends dancing their way towards the exit and flinging themselves out of the door (after all, as Jamie explains, that's why they call it a 'Highland Fling'). The earlier scene in which Jamie is forced to dance in order to make his escape is just as brilliant, and it comes at the tail end of another scene (the cheerleaders chanting in unison) that walks a tight line between being sinister and being funny.

Perhaps the thing that I've enjoyed most about this episode, though, is Anneke Will's narration. Right from the word 'go' with the sheer zeal she puts into reading the story's title, in which she makes it sound like it should end with a big exclamation point - The Macra Terror! - you know just how much she's getting into this story. I'm ever so glad that this new version of the soundtrack has been put together. No matter how much I enjoy Colin Baker, I think the new narration, and Wills' performance, really does help lift the story up to a whole new level.

11 June 2013
8/10 z

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

Day 162: The Macra Terror, Episode Three

Dear diary,

It was always going to be a hard task following on from yesterday's episode. I didn't really know how to approach today's episode, because one you've hit a 10/10 for one, it's always going to be tricky moving forward into the next part. There's nothing wrong with this third episode, but whereas I praised yesterday for not feeling like Doctor Who, today's limitation is that it feels too much like Doctor Who.

That's not the complaint it sounds like. Even when it's being 'just' Doctor Who, it's better than most other things ever invented. It just feels like today has been pretty much standard Episode Three fare. The Doctor and his friends are captured, there's an escape, and the cliff-hanger ends with Jamie being menaced by the story's monster.

Even though the Macra are still scary (I'm continuing to picture them like real crabs as opposed to the prop used in the story), this is the fourth cliffhanger in a row that centres around them, usually bearing down on someone. At the end of The Moonbase, we had the claw appearing menacingly on the scanner. It was the Doctor and Medok in Episode One being cornered by one, giving us our first proper look at the creature as a whole. At least in my head. Episode Two saw the Controller being grabbed by a giant claw, and now you've got Jamie, edging his way around one sleeping crab while another scuttles up behind him. There just comes a time when they start to lose their impact a little.

It has to be said that - once again - it's Partick Troughton who salvages the episode for me. He gets two scenes today where he really stands out, and they each showcase him in a different way. In the first, he works out the equation to find out what the gas is for. Listening to it on the soundtrack, almost the whole scene is narrated by Anneke Wills', and it's very visual few minutes. Even so, I've gotten used to Troughton to the point now that I can just picture his movements as he hurries back and forth across the control room in pursuit of data.

The highlight of the scene has to be when he discovers that not only has he worked out a correct formula, he's worked it out exactly right, and it took the colony's best computers years to figure out. With a joyful tone, he happily crosses out the 10/10 he's given himself (written in chalk on the wall, just under where he's being doing his calculations), and corrects it to an 11/10. It's a great little moment, and another example of something that I just can't picture Hartnell doing.

The other scene that gives him a chance to shine comes slightly before his comedic runaround with chalk. The Doctor is left alone in the control room with Ben, who is still under the control of the colony. It's a beautifully played scene by both Troughton and Michael Craze, as the Doctor tries to break Ben's conditioning subtly. He picks his way through a bag of sweets as he muses that this 'just isn't like you, Ben…' and warns him to stay away from Jamie, who might not be forgiving. It's another of those moments that I'm really sorry doesn't exist - as I'd love to see this pair on screen together more.

One of the key things that people tend to note about The Macra Terror is that it's the first time that the titles for the programme have changed. It's less obvious to me, listening to it on audio, as the music won't alter for another couple of days. The Troughton titles set the template for the rest of the programme's classic run, and I usually think of them as the 'default' titles for the show. In a recent Doctor Who Magazine Poll, they were voted people's 6th favourite (out of 13), so perhaps not as popular as I'd expected.

The thing I always remember about this particular sequence is my mum's reaction to it. Mum's not a fan of Doctor Who in any shape or form. I can recall watching Smith and Jones for the first time, on a visit home, and mum sitting in another room because she didn't really want to watch. Every five minutes or so, she'd walk through the living room and make a point of looking at the screen and loudly declaring that it was 'a load of old rubbish', with a bit of a smile. Still, the last time she visited me in Cardiff, Ellie and Me took her to the Doctor Who experience, as it's only a ten minute walk from the flat. She ended up quite enjoying that, so perhaps we can make a fan of her yet?

Anyway, in the early days, when I was first getting into Doctor Who, I'd picked up a Troughton story on DVD and I was settling down to watch it for the first time. As soon as the titles came on, mum decided that it was time to up and leave, as it was these titles that put her off Doctor Who for good. She'd have been about seven when they started, so old enough to really take note. She'd always found the sight of Troughton's face appearing from the howl around to be just a bit too scary, and took that as her cue to leave the room.

Often, she'll talk about just hearing the theme music as a child, and that being enough to scare her, so I think it's safe to say that these new titles weren't perhaps the greatest of successes the show ever produced - at least not in the eyes of some children!

10 June 2013

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

Day 161: The Macra Terror, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I said yesterday that - giant crabs notwithstanding - the plot of this story could be transplanted into virtually any 1960s TV programme, and it would work just as well. Heck, in some seasons of The Avengers, you'd probably even get away with the giant crabs. Today's episode has only really served to strengthen my thoughts on this. Put simply, this isn't Doctor Who. This is better than Doctor Who!

Some of you will know that when I listen to the missing episodes as audio soundtracks, I tend to do so while doing other things. My mind wanders too easily with an audio, so if I'm sat in front of a computer, for example, every five minutes or so I realise I've not been paying attention and I don't have a clue what's happening. I've usually been distracted by pictures of cats. Today's episode was listed to in a format that often serves me well - while doing the washing up (with frantic drying of hands every time I want to make a note).

It's a good sign of the quality of this episode, then, that I found myself simply stood in the kitchen for most of it. Not washing up, not drying, not cleaning anything, just standing in the middle of the kitchen listening to the story.

I think that owes a lot simply to how dramatic this episode is. Yesterday, I was praising the story for being quite comical, featuring scenes of the Doctor getting spruced up and then tumbling back into the 'cosmic hobo' style, and laughing with his friends, while something sinister played out in the background. Today, that humour has almost completely been abandoned in favour of something dark, tense, and pacy. It's signposted right from the off, with the cliff-hanger (a Macra approaching the Doctor and Medok) being resolved in an unusual way. The two men don't try to run, or fight the monster. They don't get captured by it and taken away.

It's not resolved in any of the ways that you might come to expect from Doctor Who at this stage in its life. Instead, the creature leaves, and it's Medock screaming and shouting about how he's vindicated, since the Doctor has seen a Macra too, that alerts the guards to them and sets them off for the rest of the episode. My notes for these first few minutes simply say 'unusual resolution to cliffhanger', as though it were a sign of the things to come.

The whole thing from there on feels like you're watching a completely different drama. The Doctor and his friends happen to be there, and they're on fine form as usual for this season, but they just don't feel like they're making a Doctor Who story.

As I seem to be saying a lot recently, I think there's a chance that this story is greatly helped by the lack of visuals. I've seen images of the Macra before, so I know that they don't look quite as good as I might like them to, but with the soundtrack and Anneke Wills' narration, it's easier to imagine them looking far more mobile, like real crabs scuttling about. There's a moment where we're told that Ben and Polly are surrounded by the creatures in the construction site, and they come scuttling out of every doorway. In my head, that scene looks terrifying. Specifically, Ive got THIS image in mind, which was created a couple of years ago by the fantastically talented Jay Gunn.

Quite apart from the giant crabs scuttling about in the shadows, you've got Ben being turned into a traitor. It feels like it's the main focus of today's episode, and it's set up early on with the polite announcing that the Doctor's friends will need 'deep sleep and thought control'. It's great to see Jamie being the one who resists it, and the scene between him and Ben is fantastic. Hines and Craze play it beautifully, and it's written with such subtlety ('Go to sleep. We've got a long day's work tomorrow') that you can't fail to marvel at it.

Once the suggestion is out of the way, and the Doctor has smashed up the control equipment, Ben is used to great effect in the rest of the episode. Everything he's asked to do by the script is filled with menace, and a kind of threat that we've never seen in Doctor Who. He calls for the guards to take the Doctor away, adding that 'he should be in that hospital of yours', and he mocks Jamie for trying to support his friend. Later, he stalks Polly through the darkened streets of the colony, cooing her and teasing her to come out.

By the time they report to the pilot to announce that they've both seen the Macra, I thought that we might be done with the whole 'evil Ben' plot, but then there's a great twist when he repeats the instructions given earlier in the episode - there are no such thing as Macra! The last time we saw a companion taken over this way was in Ian Stuart Black's last script for the series, The War Machines, in which Dodo and Polly were controlled by Wotan. This feels different, though. There, they were asked to look blank and do the work of the mad computer. Here, Ben is required to turn sinister and actively oppose his friends. It's all very unsettling and comes from right out of left-field. It's brilliant, though.

I've complained in the past that people are often too eager to hand out '1' or '10' to stories that they either hate or love, but I tend to keep my scores much more measured. I reserve the polar extremes for the episodes that really send me in one direction or the other. We've had a couple of '9' scores in The 50 Year Diary up to now, but I think this episode has been more enjoyable than some of those, which leaves me with only one way to go…

9 June 2013
8/10a Day 160: The Macra Terror, Episode One

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

Day 160: The Macra Terror, Episode One

Dear diary,

The first line of my notes for this episode reads: 'Creepy opening noise', which I've later described as a 'factory heartbeat', 'cut through by up-beat music'. It's a great opening to the story, with this 'heartbeat' playing out for quite some time before the Hi-De-Hi music cuts in, and it works especially well on audio. Odd though, I thought, that I didn't have a clue what was going on, because no one stepped in to narrate. It was only a little later, when Colin Baker's voice appeared on the soundtrack, that I realised I was listening to the old version of the story.

A quick trip to the AudioGo website soon rectified it, and while the new version of the story downloaded (narrated this time, in full, by Anneke Wills), I had a chance to muse on how odd that opening had been. I've often heard that the original release of the story's soundtrack (in the early 1990s, I believe) wasn't very good, and a number of people got rather excited when it was announced that the 'Lost TV Episodes' box sets contained a new version.

As soon as I'd loaded the updated edition to my phone and hit play again, it quickly became apparent just how much better this attempt at the story is. For a start, having been given a few seconds of the 'factory heartbeat', Wills' steps into to tell us what's actually happening at this point - and it's quite key to the rest of the plot. There's a bit of me that almost wants to listen to the original version and see how well you can piece things together. The narration is helpful, too, once the happier music kicks in, paining a picture of what's going on.

I'm finding that I'm picturing the colony here as being something akin to the village seen in The Prisoner, which would have gone out about six months later than The Macra Terror. Tellingly, and much like Ian Stuart Black's scripts for Season Three, much of this story feels like it would fit in just as well if you were to remove the Doctor and his companions, and to substitute them with the lead characters from Danger Man, The Avengers, or Adam Adamant Lives!. It's only when a giant crab starts to crawl towards us in the cliffhanger that things really lurch back into being a Doctor Who story.

That's not a criticism, mind. Doctor Who is at its best when aping other styles, and Ian Stuart Black is a writer who understands 1960s adventure better than a lot of people. The whole story is tense and gripping right from the off, with the TARDIS landing right in the middle of a chase (and our regulars getting caught up in said chase almost the minute they step out of the ship), and then onwards through a slightly too happy world, where everyone is smiling, and we're asked to ignore the single mad man ruining everyone else's fun.

All the stuff with the Doctor and his friends being given a relaxation treatment is great fun, and it's a sequence that I'd love to actually watch properly. The Doctor stepping out form a machine freshly pressed and looking terribly clean is brilliant… as is his almost instant reversal to being a bit of a scruffy clown. As I've become used to, Troughton is on sparkling form here, and he's given plenty of brilliant dialogue, too. My notes are filled with snippets of conversation, but my favourite has to be just after their arrival in the colony: 'We're in the future, and on a planet very like Earth,' he declares, before Jamie questions how he knows that. 'I don't know,' the Doctor responds, 'I'm guessing.'

Having seen a few full moving Troughton episodes now, I can just picture him playing this moment, and just thinking about it brings a smile to my face.

Once we move into the later half of the episode, and the squeeky-clean veneer of the colony has been wiped away, we're left with the Doctor creeping around in dark streets and building sites, looking out for the only other person who may know the truth. This episode is perhaps the first time we've really seen the Doctor standing back, knowing exactly what's going on, but playing the fool all the same.

For much of the episode, he doesn't seem to have any idea what's going on, but then he drops lines into conversations that betray a greater intelligence. He makes a point of mentioning crawling along the ground (instantly getting the guard's backs up), and again, it's a scene i can just see Troughton playing.

Ian Stuart Black wrote my highest-rated serial of the First Doctor's run, and if he can keep up this quality for the rest of the story, The Macra Terror could be rating quite well, too.

8 June 2013
8/10 Day 159: The Moonbase, Episode Four

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

Day 159: The Moonbase, Episode Four

Dear diary,

I didn't notice it during Episode Two (possibly because we spent a lot more time in the medical wing), but the set of the Moonbase itself is huge! There's a shot early on, where the Doctor and Hobson walk from a telescope across to a section of controls, and they're walking for ages. Several other shots focus on people in the foreground, with others getting on with work elsewhere (it's usually the Doctor, watching through the telescope) in the back of the shot. It's not often in Doctor Who at this stage that you get sets on a scale like this, so it adds something really different to the story.

It's also nice to see close ups being used here to great effect, much as they were in Episode Two. Once again, we get a great close up of Pat Troughton as he delivers the end of a speech, and it really does help to sell the danger that they're all in. Again, it's an unusual look to a Who story, so it's fantastic to see. Hopefully, when the story sees its release on DVD later in the year, with the two missing episodes animated, they'll be keeping to this style - it really is better than average.

The close ups are also used brilliantly when we're with the Cybermen in their ship - which has a great design, by the way! The hexagons are beautiful, and the weird light-effect pattern being used as a screen is psychedelic. Very 1960s! - and they're framed at slightly odd angles, not usually face-on to one of the creatures. I think it makes the Cybermen costumes look better than they otherwise might, as it has to be said that the more this story goes on, the less keen I am on this design. It's very nice and all, it just looks a bit… tatty.

They're at their best in the first few minutes, and the recap from yesterday's episode as they slowly advance across the surface of the Moon. The shot of their feet marching along is stunning - one of the best we've ever had - and having the title come up over it looks fab, too. It helps that there's loads of Cybermen, so it seems like those feet are coming towards you for ages.

It has to be said that they also look pretty good when being lifted off into space. I mused during Episode One that it was perhaps thankful that it was missing from the archives, so we could imagine the shots of the Doctor, Ben, Polly, and Jamie larking about in zero-gravity looking as good as we wanted… but actually, it's pulled off really well here, with the Cybermen! It does help that the black sky gives more of a chance to hide the wires, but it looks great all the same. It's also a nice touch that they're not just whisked off into the air, but they start to lift a little first, before being swept away. A little thing, but it really helps the moment.

And then, as soon as the Cyber-menace is defeated, the Doctor and his friends slip away before too many questions can be asked. It's something that's become a staple of the series by now, even though it's crept in as a relatively recent thing. Hobsons' comment that it's probably for the best, since there's enough madmen in the base anyway is great, and sums up Troughton's Doctor perfectly. He really is the first 'madman with a box'.

I'm tempted to turn on my own Time Scanner now, and see if I'll enjoy tomorrow's episode or not, but I don't know, since The Macra Terror is another of those stories from this era that I know little about. It’s got giant crabs in it. That's about all I can tell you. I do know, however, that the idea of the Time Scanner is a bizarre one - something that perhaps feels more at home in the TV Comic stories than it does on screen. I don't dislike it, per say, but it does feel a bit out of place…

8 June 2013

The BBC have quashed the recent rumours circulating online that an announcement on the casting of the 12th Doctor is due imminently.

The rumours, which began via Science Fiction magazine; Starburst, stated:

"Sources have indicated that a Sunday newspaper is intending to scoop the BBC by announcing the name of the new Doctor this weekend. And in order to pre-empt the scoop, the BBC look set to announce the name tomorrow evening, just a single short week since the announcement of Matt Smith’s departure, and hardly time enough for that bombshell of a news story to sink in.


Starburst's sources have now come up with three names, apparently the front-runners in the bidding to be the new Doctor. Whether it's one of these three that has in fact been chosen to play the part, we cannot be sure. We can't really be sure that these three are in the running at all - but that's what we've been told! One thing that's guaranteed, however, is that this new "information" will get people talking!

The three names are: Domhnall Gleeson, Daniel Kaluuya, and Dominic Cooper."

BBC Publicist, Jenni Pain, tweeted the following this morning denying the rumours:

"For all those wondering, there is no #doctorwho announcement planned today"

This was then further echoed by the @BBCOne Twitter channel:

"@bbcdoctorwho fans, contrary to rumours there is no #DoctorWho casting announcement today."

Also via Twitter, Doctor Who DVD Director, Ed Stradling appeared to have official word from Steven Moffat on the rumours:

"Steven Moffat says this morning "I haven't a clue who it is, we've barely started." So no #doctorwho announcement this evening I fear!"

The DWO View:

The BBC will keep the casting of the 12th Doctor as close to their chests for as long as possible. Over the next few days, weeks and possibly months, you will no doubt hear a multitude of names - male and female - thrown into the ring, but as with Matt Smith, the BBC are likely to cast someone who possibly hasn't even been mentioned yet. Watch this space!

+  Follow @DrWhoOnline on Twitter!

[Sources: Twitter; Starburst]

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