Time Lord Tees

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28 October 2013

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

Day 301: Colony in Space, Episode Two

Dear diary,

Styles always cycle back around again. During my last year at university, the look I'd been spotting for three years suddenly found itself thrust in the spotlight as being 'on trend'. Right the way through the summer of 2010, I was suddenly very cool, because I was wearing all the right things. Of course, these were the same 'right things' which - 12 months earlier - other people wouldn't have been caught dead wearing. After a while I decided to have a bit of fun with it, and I'd turn up to lectures in increasingly bizarre combinations, to see how far I could push the envelope. Surprisingly far, as it transpired. And then, as ever, the styles move on and something else becomes cool again. I've still got all those once trendy clothes (I call them 'idiot hipster', now) because at some point, they'll be fashionable again, and I will be cool.

It's the way they things have always gone. The 1980s seem to have been 'making a comeback' for several years now, with styles, music, and movies from that decade being given a reappraisal and brought back into being cool. Even Sylvester McCoy's Doctor has seen a huge upswing in popularity in the time since I started wanting into fandom, and it's nice to see him being given the attention he deserves.

In the year 2472, it would seem that the 1970s are making a come back into fashion, because everyone seems to be embracing the hairstyles - and the facial hair - of the period. I mean really, if you were to show this episode to someone and ask them to guess when it was made, I think it's fair to say they'd be aiming their guess around the 1970s. At one point, there's even a joke about 'Jim'll Fix It' - which makes Jo laugh! Perhaps oddly, Colony in Space was made a few years before Jim'll Fix It first his screens, but in hindsight it seems as though the production team is making a knowing nod to the programme.

All of this is only highlighted by the fact that they've all got fairly typical 'futuristic' costumes on. It's been so long since I saw anything other than 'contemporary' clothes, but it seems bizarre that this story - the one not set in (or around) the 70s is the one that looks most like them! I don't know if it's simply because we're in colour now, but this story has the look that I tend to think of for Doctor Who in this period. The style of the sets and the costumes feels very much in keeping with hazy memories of a few Tom Baker stories, and it's nice to see the programme moving into this style. We've got another alien planet quarry, but I think it works quite well - it's not become a joke just yet.

I'm most impressed by the design of the Interplanetary Mining Corporation's ship, though. It's a bit odd in places, and some of the colours are a little bold, but it looks good. The contrast between this and the colony really does hit you, and I think that makes it work all the better. I'm hoping we'll get a chance for the Doctor to explore it a bit more later in the story, as it would be a shame to loose such an interesting design so quickly.

I've realised today that there's another thing I knew about this story, without even knowing it. There's an image of the Doctor being menaced by the claws of the robot here, which I've seen plenty of times before. The image clearly shows the animal-like claws and the metal poles as the arms, but you can't see the body of the 'creature'. I'd always assumed that you never saw the metal poles on screen and it was just an unfortunate choice of framing the image, so imagine my surprise at discovering that it's meant to look like that!

 

27 October 2013

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

Day 300: Colony in Space, Episode One

Dear diary,

It feels strange to be writing this one, because I’ve not actually watchedtoday’s episode yet. I wanted to capture this feeling, though, becauseColony in Space is one of those stories about which I know pretty muchnothing. I wanted to make a list of the things that I think I know about it, and see how close to the mark I get (or look like a complete idiot a few says from now if I turn out to be wrong on all counts…).

There’s only a few of these stories left in the marathon for me, because once we start hitting the late 1970s (and especially the 1980s and beyond), I know plenty about ever story, even if I’ve never seen them myself. I think that this and The Mutants represent the last two ‘black holes’ in my Doctor Who knowledge.

So, what do I think I know about this story? Well, I ‘know’ it’s the first time that this incarnation of the Doctor makes it to a planet other than Earth, and of course the Master is there (of course he is, that’s the only thing that I’m completely sure about). I think that it’s the first story of the 1970s to not feature Nicholas Courtney, and I *think*UNIT is absent, too. There’s a little voice somewhere in the back of my head that says this is the first time we actively see the Doctor sent on a mission by the Time Lords, but I don’t know how accurate that might be.

And that’s it! The sum total of my (potential) knowledge on Colony in Space. I could be entirely on the money, or I could be way off. That’s all part of the fun though – usually when I reach a story I know little-to-nothing about, I go though this ritual in my head where I almost test myself to see how close I can get, and I thought it might be fun to do this one in public so that you can all revere me. Or laugh at me. We’ll see how it goes.

Anyway, the DVD is loaded into the drive, my notepad is at the ready, and here we go…

Well… I was a bit right. Also a bit wrong. As things go, that’s not too bad. This is the Third Doctor’s first trip to a planet besides Earth, and the Time Lords have sent him (he doesn’t know that for certain yet, but he suspects it). I was expecting more of a meeting between the Doctor and his people, akin to the bowler-hatted messenger in Terror of the Autons, or the opening to Genesis of the Daleks, but this works. The opening scene here - where the Time Lords stand around in a dark room and discuss the using the Doctor to do their dirty work – feels like a great season opener, in which they recap the basic terms of the Doctor’s exile.

I was surprised to have the Brig turning up, but it makes perfect sense that he does. I thought the story simply opened with the TARDIS arriving on some alien world (or being taken there by the Time Lords), but having now actually seen it properly, of course you need the Brigadier to show his face. Way back during The Daleks’ Master Plan, I described my criteria for determining a companion to be that you’d have to explain their absence from a story. While I’d argue that the Brigadier isn’t a companion (as the Pertwee era goes on, there’s less of a need to explain the absence away), at this point in the narrative, wedo need to see him left behind.

It feels like this is the Third Doctor’s subtle arc – tinkering away with the TARDIS. We’ve seen him move from failed escape attempts inSpearhead From Space through to completing a new circuit and leaving the Earth behind today (with a bit of a hand from the Time Lords), and we need to see him making the departure for there to be any impact. I’m assuming now that we might get the Brig showing up again at the end of Episode Six, just to serve as a means of integrating the Doctor back into the ‘regular’ set up.

Opening on Earth means that we get to see Jo’s first reaction to the TARDIS, too. I’d sort of assumed that she already knew about it all (having decided that she’s been the Doctor’s assistant for something like a year now), and since the climax to the previous story hinges largely on the idea that the Doctor has used his Time Machine to save the day, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to her that everything he’s said is true.

But then, Jo was left completely perplexed by the Doctor’s explanation of a time loop yesterday (she wasn’t alone – the whole room was baffled!), and I wonder if he’s juts been loathe to let anyone else into the ship while he’s working on it? It’s a great scene, and we get the first ‘it’s bigger on the inside’ reaction that we’ve seen in some time. I love that she’s not jumping into it with both feet, but is more timid. Jo ended up rather thrust into the Doctor’s world when she joined UNIT, and now she’s even further out of her depth.

What was odd is that they seem to have forgotten how to do the TARDIS take off. Both when it departs from UNIT and when it arrives on Uxarieus, it simply cuts out of (or in to) shot. I’d say that it’s a case of them simply forgetting how it used to be (they’ve not had cause for a TARDIS take off in two years), but they got it right in the last story! It just looks a bit odd, which is a shame. I’m pleased to see the return of the view outside the TARDIS doors, though, with the planet right on their doorstep. The blow-up photo wall has been moved from the ‘lobby’ to the back of the console room to make its final appearance in the programme, having been around since the very first episode.

26 October 2013

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

Day 299: The Claws of Axos, Episode Four

Dear diary,

Those of you who have been following The 50 Year Diary for a while now will no doubt have noticed how often I state my surprise at actually liking the Third Doctor. I've made no secret in the past of the fact that he's always been my least favourite incarnation, and I think it's fair to say that these five seasons were the point of the marathon that I was seriously worried about.

And yet, I'm repeatedly given cause to really like this incarnation! All the things I've thought of as bad traits are still there (I don't know if he's more dismissive to Jo than the previous Doctors were to their companions, or it's just the way that Pertwee does it, but he does seem to like sidelining other people), but there's so many layers to the character that I'm finding myself drawn to.

In today's episode, when he suddenly appears to turn rogue and form an alliance with the Master, there was a moment that I really believed it. He's tried to take off in the middle of an adventure before, leaving UNIT in the lurch, so when he suggests to the Master than he's rather leave Earth to its fate and get off the planet with him, I was genuinely interested in seeing this side of the character come back. He goes on to a lovely speech about not wishing to spent the rest of his life 'as a heap of dust on a second rate planet to a third rate star,' and it really does feel like he'd take off in a heartbeat.

It didn't take long for me to twig that he was really just using the Master, and it's simply because he's started to turn the Master's own arguments against him. 'We're both Time Lords,' he reminds him - the exact same plea that the Master used in The Mind of Evil when he needed help. If this were the modern series, with a show runner's guiding hand steering events, you could almost believe that this was seeded in, but I think it's more just luck than anything. It's the perfect example of the marathon working its magic again, because this moment carries so much more weight having seen everything from the start of the Doctor's exile to here.

When he's actually making his goodbyes and heading into the TARDIS - really playing up the moment to convince the Master that he's being quite serious - it's Pertwee at his finest. For an actor so famed at the time for his comedic roles, he really does excel when given scenes of anger or contempt. I especially love the way that he ends by saying goodbye to Jo, adding 'I shall miss you!'

It's good to finally see this version of the Doctor inside the TARDIS, here, although it has the unfortunate effect of making the already cramped set look even smaller when there's two people in there! Oddly, beyond the interior doors is the printed roundel backdrop that had become so familiar throughout the 1960s, giving the odd effect that the Doctor has added a hallway (it's especially jarring when the Master enters the police box and immediately arrives through these doors - it would look seamless if they'd had a shot of the power complex beyond the doors. With all the CSO work being slipped into the series these days, I'm surprised they didn't use it here!)

As the first story of the 1970s to really feature the TARDIS, it's fitting that it plays such a vital role in the resolution of the tale. I vaguely knew that Axos ended up trapped in a time loop, so it was fun watching the plan come together, and seeing the Doctor slowly manipulate people - the Master, mainly - into position for the plan to work. Axos has escaped the time loop a few times in alternate media, though the only one I've experienced was the DWM comic strip from a few years ago, featuring the Eleventh Doctor and Amy. It's certainly one of my favourite strips from recent years.

It's telling that the strip didn't feel the need to radically redesign the Axons, either. They use the near-infinite budget of the medium to make the creature more impressive (at one point, a large Japanese skyscraper becomes a giant axon), but it's still very much the same design. There are moments of today's episode where they really do look fantastic - usually when being shot in close up attacking the UNIT jeep. Unfortunately, when we cut to a wider shot they don't look quite as menacing. At one point, one of them has mounted the bonnet, and his legs wave up and down as the car drives on. Not their finest moment…

On the whole, I've been really impressed by The Claws of Axos. Having only ever had it on as background noise in the past, I'd assumed that there wasn't enough here to keep me interested, but I've been pleasantly surprised, and it's given me the boost of enthusiasm that I needed to pick up the middle of the season…

25 October 2013

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

Day 298: The Claws of Axos, Episode Three

Dear diary,

It feels like the reappearance of the TARDIS console room should be a bigger deal than it is. We’ve not seen it since the end of The War Games, which was well over a month ago for me, and on original broadcast it would have been mere weeks away from two whole years. When it turns up again, it should make a massive impact, a feeling of homecoming. As it is, I’m left just sort of thinking ‘oh. There’s the TARDIS…’

It’s a hangover from being so familiar with the programme as a whole. I’m so used to seeing different versions of this same console room throughout the original twenty-six years that it doesn’t feel odd to be back here again. We’ve got a new TARDIS console on show, too, which makes the decision to keep it in a shade of pale green even more baffling. I can understand them not painting the prop for its few appearances in Season Seven (why bother? It’s a needless expense), but when you’re building one from scratch…

I’m pleased to see that they’ve dressed it up a bit to suggest that the Doctor really is working in there – it would have looked terribly off if it were simply the same as we’d always seen it. The one downside is just how cramped it all looks. When we got the first view inside the ship in An Unearthly Child, the sheer size of it really worked in its favour. It felt impressive to see this huge futuristic space tucked inside this battered old police box. Here, we've got the doors, a single wall (boasting an unusual CSO scanner screen in one of the roundels), and the console.

I also have to wonder… how would this have felt on first transmission? As I've said, the audience won't have seen inside the TARDIS for two years by this point, and yet it's simply treated as being 'matter of fact' that this is what's inside the ship, as if we're supposed to know it. There would have been children watching The Claws of Axos who couldn't remember back as far as the funny little Second Doctor, so this must have been a bit of an anti-climax.

For all I've grumbled over the last few days about having the Master turning up so frequently this year (there's only been a single episode in which he doesn't make an appearance), I'm really enjoying him today. With the Doctor trapped aboard Axos, the Master is filling his role admirably, and it helps to further highlight all the similarities between the two characters.

I don't think that much of his dialogue while helping UNIT would be out of place coming from the mouth of the Third Doctor (indeed, while I knew of the line 'You could take the usual precautions…sticky tape on the windows, that sort of thing', I'd always thought it was a line spoken by the Doctor), and his entire attitude towards events isn't all that far removed from our hero, either. The way he ponders over the TARDIS console working out if he can get it going again isn't a million miles away from what the Doctor was doing back in Doctor Who and the Silurians, or Inferno.

That's not to say that the Doctor doesn't get to shine a bit today. I'm really enjoying all the effects that we're being given in the Axos ship - although I've got a sneaking suspicion that I shouldn't like them. It still feels a bit like Michael Ferguson is melting a box of crayons over the camera lens, but it really works. Most impressive is the way that the Doctor and Jo communicate with one of the golden Axons - and the shot alters slightly on the screen as the head spins from side to side. I believe the effect was a achieved by fading between a few different shots of Bernard Holley* as the Axon, and it's an interesting new take on 'video conferencing', which has become a bit commonplace in the series (even Chinn is at it today…)

The spaghetti Axons get a chance to stand out a bit, too. Seeing the creature roam around the power complex is perhaps the first time since Spearhead From Space that I've really understood Jon Pertwee's oft-repeated comments about 'Yeti on the loo', but it looks so brilliant to see this odd creature against such an industrial backdrop. It's helped by the way it attacks (tendrils shooting out and blowing up their prey), and even though I can see exactly how they've achieved the effect, my mind sort of overlooks it and makes it work just right. An eight year old would love that moment. Heck, somewhere in my mind, eight year old me is loving it!

*Another name to add to my 'The cast from The Tomb of the Cybermen turning up in the Pertwee era' list. If we don't get one in Season Nine it won't matter too much - Season Eight has been a buy-one-get-one-free…

25 October 2013
 Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Nicholas Briggs

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: October 2013

Reviewed by: Matthew Davis for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 25th October 2013

November 23rd 1963 proves to be a significant day in the lives of all eight Doctors…

It's the day that Bob Dovie's life is ripped apart…

It's also a day that sets in motion a catastrophic chain of events which forces the first eight incarnations of the Doctor to fight for their very existence. As a mysterious, insidious chaos unfolds within the TARDIS, the barriers of time break apart…

From suburban England through war-torn alien landscapes and into a deadly, artificial dimension, all these Doctors and their companions must struggle against the power of an unfathomable, alien technology.

From the very beginning, it is clear that the Master is somehow involved. By the end, for the Doctors, there may only be darkness.

* * *

So here it is at last! The Light at the End is Big Finish’s tribute to the 50th anniversary of our favourite television show and was it worth the wait? The answer is a resounding YES!

The Light at the End is everything you could have hoped for from an anniversary story; multiple Doctors, many companions and a truly exciting story which celebrates the past fifty years with unashamed joy.

Unlike previous releases, Zagreus and The Four Doctors, we get to see all the Doctors interacting with each other throughout the whole story. 

As with past multi Doctor stories there are the inevitable moments such as criticism of taste in fashion , differences of opinion on TARDIS decor and some squabbling. Writer Nicholas Briggs chooses to pair Doctors together before everyone eventually gets together for the final part of the story. This makes for some rather interesting team ups, especially when the Fourth and Eighth Doctor get together. Tom Baker and Paul McGann make a wonderful pairing and they play off each other to great comic effect. Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy also make a brilliant pairing that is somewhat reminiscent of Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee from The Three Doctors, which creates some more wonderful moments.

One of the biggest surprises about the story is that all the classic Doctors make an appearance and I do mean all of them. How this is achieved I wouldn’t dream of spoiling by telling you but Big Finish must be commended for taking on such a risky and delicate matter and achieving a lovely tribute to those wonderful actors no longer with us.

The Light at the End surely must feature the largest cast of guest stars in any single Big Finish release. The cast includes many Companions of the past from Carole Ann Ford to the very welcome return of India Fisher and many more lovely surprises. Wisely, unlike other anniversary specials of the past, Briggs uses them in small but wonderful moments and little flashes of memory - it pulls at the fans’ heart strings and no one outstays their welcome.

The Companions themselves have a really great part to play but ultimately this is a story about The Doctor. That is not to say the companions are wasted; they play a really important part in the story and Ace’s descriptions of each of the Doctor’s incarnations is worth the purchase price itself.

The cast are on exceptional form and an extraordinary script makes this a top notch audio drama.

Briggs must be singled out for great praise. The Light at the End in the hands of a lesser writer could have been a mess. The temptation of an anniversary story is to succumb to all our fan dreams and fill the story with so many references, characters and monsters that the story is crushed under its own weight (I’m looking at you Dimensions in Time!). I take my hat off to Briggs for not only creating a superb script which serves all the Doctors and their legacy but for writing a cracking story in its own right. 

Having The Master as the sole antagonist is a smart move on Brigg’s part, especially as he has been such an important part of The Doctor’s history. This choice of foe gives the story a clear sense of direction and enhances the impact of its message. We are reminded throughout just how important The Doctor is and the impact that he has on those around him and the Universe as a whole is inescapable.

Just as we are reminded that The Doctor has impacted on the lives of those he meets in his stories, so too are we reminded of the importance he has had to us as listeners. We wouldn’t be listening to this story if hehad not had an impact on us at some point in our lives. This is something that Briggs understands completely, as he is one of us; a true fan. He doesn’t just love the show, he truly understands what makes it important and it is this understanding that really shines through.

The Light at the End really is a wonderful tribute to the power of Doctor Who and its legacy and this is one release you really cannot be without.

Here’s to the next 50 years...

24 October 2013
 a

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

Day 297: The Claws of Axos, Episode Two

Dear diary,

We're very much in a period of change for Doctor Who in the last season of the 1960s, and the first few of the 1970s. We've seen departures from several key production personnel from the programme - David Whitaker made his last contribution with Season Seven, while Timothy Coombe bowed out under the last story - and watched the arrival of several other key movers and shakers to the programme's history - Barry Lett's joined with The Enemy of the World, while both Terrance Dicks and Robert Holmes made their debuts with Season Six.

The Claws of Axos is a story that acts as a change in both directions. We get the first story to be written by 'The Bristol Boys', Bob Baker and Dave Martin, who'll be turning up a few times throughout this decade, and provide some pretty important stories to the show. At the same time, this tale is the last to be directed by Michael Ferguson, who'd been with us as a director on several occasions over the last few years.

It's lovely, watching through the series in order, how much you notice each individual styles. You can tell when they've got Camfield in the director's chair because everything is so well polished and done. David Maloney has a trademark style, too, that works very well with whimsical shots. Ferguson has several of his own little signatures, and several of them turn up in these episodes.

You've got the shot of a high-tech institution made to look huge with clever use of CSO (he did the same in The Ambassadors of Death), The return of the foam machine (the last time it makes an appearance in the programme, I believe), and even the return of some ma-hoo-sive sideburns on Bill Filer (both those last two, or three if you're giving that facial hair room to breathe, were in The Seeds of Death).

Something we do get today would perhaps be more at home coming from David Maloney, though. The shots of Bill Filer being replicated by Axos are some of the most bizarre, triply things that we've seen in Doctor Who. They're certainly reminiscent of the Kroton's ship, but whereas that occasion seemed to make the most of the monochrome look by giving us brightly-lit characters against a dark background, this scene positively delights in using every colour on the spectrum. I'd argue that this one scene justified the higher cost of a colour TV licence for the whole year.

Elsewhere, I'm still enjoying the story. It's nice to see the Doctor so suspicious of the Axons (or, I suppose, just 'Axos', now), and it's a good follow-on from Doctor Who and the Silurians. Here, he's berated Chinn and the Brigadier for being so ready to destroy the ship and the creatures, but he doesn't trust them. He even pretends to be on their side just to keep them sweet, while later confirming to Jo that he knows they're lying. I've never really payed all that much attention to the design of the golden Axons, but it actually looks pretty good. We get another 'face melting' shot today in the form of one of these creatures being absorbed back into the ship, and it really does work well.

When the first images were released of the Heavenly Host from Voyage of the Damned, Doctor Who fandom had pretty much made up their mind that it would see the return of Axos - how could it not? That design clearly takes some inspiration from here. I'm also quite fond of the 'spaghetti Axons' (as I insist on calling them in my notes). Today, I've dug out the Axon figure from the cupboard to sit by the computer with the Master (he's been hanging around the keyboard since I started this season), but having actually started watching the story properly now, I'm a bit disappointed that it's not the same design as these spaghetti monsters. I assume that they toy version of the creature is what Professor Winser is now turning into, but I think I'd rather the version covered in tentacles…

24 October 2013

Manufacturer: The Wand Company Ltd

RRP: £69.99

Release Date: October 2013

Reviewed by: Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 24th October 2013

Last year, we had the pleasure of reviewing The Wand Company’s first foray into the Doctor Who market with their 11th Doctor Sonic Screwdriver Universal Remote Control (review here). It was only natural that after the huge success of the first product, that more would be on the way.

Enter the 10th Doctor Sonic Screwdriver Universal Remote Control… and what a product it is! Kicking off with the simple and clean white outer box, which ties in neatly with the 50th Anniversary branding, upon opening you are presented with a contrasting inner black box, which doubles neatly as a handy carrying case.

The case opens out to reveal the sonic screwdriver and a USB cable to charge the device, and getting started really is as easy as plugging it into to the nearest USB point on your computer.

One charged, you’re ready to begin storing the remote control functions, of which there are 39 that the device can learn and store (13 gestures in each of the 3 memory banks). Programming the sonic to learn the gestures is incredibly easy, and nestled beneath one of the inner trays of the black carry case is a handy instruction manual which is simple to follow and will get you up and running in no time at all.

As with the 11th Doctor sonic, this is so much more than just a remote control. Instead of having the simple point and tap functionality, there are the added bonuses of light and sound FX, which help make the overall look and feel of the device even more real.

In the instruction manual, it clearly points out that “The Sonic Screwdriver universal remote control is not a toy”, and they’re right; this is a loyal replica that just so happens to have the bonus of remote control features. The device is heavy enough for you to feel the quality, but light enough to perform all your remote control duties without feeling any burden of weight.

As well as the ‘Control Mode’ there are 3 other operational modes which the user can cycle through:

Quiet Control Mode - Instead of the bells and whistles with the sound FX on the standard control mode, quiet control mode simply performs clicks and light flashes instead of the sounds.

Practise Mode - This is for the user to learn how to perform the movement gestures correctly before going into control mode to store them into the memory banks.

Finally, there’s the ‘FX Mode’ (our personal favourite). Even though, as we previously mentioned, this is not a toy (*smiles cheekily*), FX mode effectively allows you to be The Doctor, and sample up to ten different sonic screwdriver sound effects. If you quickly press the main button three times whilst in FX mode, there’s a great ‘Morse code’ feature that transmits up to ten different well known 10th Doctor phrases in Morse code.

There’s one final surprise in this neat little package though, for when you lift up the other tray in the black carry case, there is, what could easily be mistaken as a Hobbit-sized metal coaster, bearing some Gallifreyan symbols. But this isn’t for your Venusian espresso - it’s a rather cool stand for your sonic, with a magnetic point for which to display the remote in a dazzling, timey-wimey, vertical position. Sure it may not be a necessary extra, but its another example of the attention to detail and extra mile that The Wand Company have gone to in bringing to life this iconic Doctor Who device.

At £69.99, The Tenth Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver universal remote control is almost £10 more expensive than the previous Eleventh Doctor’s sonic, but it is worth every penny. We actually preferred this more compact version of the sonic, and despite the size reduction compared to its televisual successor, there’s no compromise in the features or functionality it holds.

+  Click Here to buy now from FireBox for £69.95!

[With thanks to Firebox]

<mce:script

23 October 2013
 a

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

Day 296: The Claws of Axos, Episode One

Dear diary,

Back in the days before I had a formal structure to my Doctor Who viewing, I used to quite often use the DVDs as ‘background noise’. I’d be pottering around the flat, with the story simply playing out in the corner somewhere. Not paying attention to it, but knowing it was there all the same. I can’t tell you many of the stories I’ve ‘watched’ in this way, but I know that The Claws of Axos was one of them. As with many of the Pertwee DVDs, I’d had it sat on the shelf for a while, and never watched it. One afternoon, I decided that enough was enough, and it was time to actually make an effort with the Third Doctor.

Of course, it simply became more of the ‘background noise’, and I don’t think anything highlights this fact more than the way it ended. By the time the story finished, I was in the bath. My flat at the time had a bathroom just off the living room, so I was able to keep half an eye on the telly while I was in the bath (though I was probably reading a book, meaning that I wasn’t paying any notice to the Doctor and Jo running around on the screen). After a while, I became aware that the story was looping. It’d gone back to the menu screen, and I couldn’t figure it out – I’d always assumed that The Claws of Axos was a six-parter for some reason. Suddenly discovering that it was much shorter seemed to make it more bearable, so I resolved to sit down and watch it properly.

Here we are, three years or so on, and I’m finally doing that. It can’t have been that much of an epiphany, because I’ve never bothered to make the time for it before. It means that this is the second of the Pertwee-era special edition DVDs that I’m watching having never really seen it before (though it’s not quite as bad as with Inferno, where I don’t think I’d ever watched a second of the disk): I’m basically their ideal audience – buy twice, watch once!

Know what, though? This episode was great! Right from the off, I found myself making an enormous amount of notes – things that I wanted to bring up here. Key among them comes right at the start – the Brigadier covering for the Doctor’s lack of records. I spoke a lot yesterday about the way that the pair don’t love each other, but have a kind of mutual respect, and this scene perfectly sums it up. The Brigadier confirms that the Doctor is his responsibility, and it’s a lovely moment.

In fact, all of those early scenes with UNIT at their HQ are fab – we get to see the Third Doctor’s rage again, which showed itself so well during Season Seven. There’s even a tiresome government official standing in his way – It’s almost like we’re watching a Season Seven story. With that comes a familiar feeling – that wishing that we could see this story spruced up for a HD release. I know it couldn’t happen (even if the film sequences could be rescanned for Blu ray, I’d imagine the fact it’s needed a special edition means that there’s some issues with the quality), but I’d love to see the UNIT convoy converging on the Axon ship in better quality.

This is the first time that I’ve really noticed it, but UNIT is actually quite well manned. Back during The Invasion, I made a comment that the series didn’t always have UNIT as such a large organisation, but actually there’s a fair few of them! I wonder if I was thinking more specifically of the ‘inner circle’ of UNIT, made up of the Brig, Benton, and Mike (with Corporal Bell thrown in for good measure, since this is her second story in a row)? Either way, it look quite impressive when the military units approach the ship, and I’m glad that I’d been misremembering the size of the Taskforce.

Mind you, anything rolling up to the location would look better than our chap on a bike. ‘Pigbin Josh’ has become something of a joke within fandom, an a term applied to several characters who crop up in this era, from Spearhead in Space to The Three Doctors and beyond. I’ve always known the joke of the character, but never realised just how close to the truth it was! We effectively follow his journey through the first half of the episode, as he occasionally mumbles in a thick accent. I’m not sure exactly what he’s saying, but it sounds an awful lot like ‘ooh arr’. The discovery of his body is strangely affecting, though and accompanied by a fantastic shot as his head ‘caves in’ on itself. The fade to white and cut away to Mike seems to imply that the rest of the image is too horrific to watch. Very well handled indeed.

Not quite such a good effect is the enlargement (and subsequent shrinking) of the frog. There’s lots of examples of CSO cropping up in these 25 minutes, and some is handled better than others – the shots inside the Axon ship are pretty well handled on the whole, even if they do occasionally leave some fringing around the edges. When it comes to the frog, though, it would appear that a side effect of using Axonite to grow your crops is that large chunks of the target simply vanish altogether!

I think the only thing that was a real disappointment today was the arrival of the Master. I said yesterday that I was looking forward to his return, but I thought they might give us a week off. The Mind of Evil doesn’t introduce him into the events until the second episode, and I thought the same might have been true of this story. It feels like after the very obvious goodbye scene for the character in the last episode, suddenly having him pop up again here is a bit naff. At least we find him in a position of weakness, captured in the Axon ship, which gives us a slightly different dynamic on the character. For all his ‘clever’ plots and schemes, mind, he does often find himself in need of the Doctor’s assistance…

22 October 2013

BBC Worldwide today announces that the special 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who will also be screened in 3D in cinemas across the UK, Ireland, the US, Canada, Germany and Russia at the same time as the UK TV broadcast on BBC One on 23rd November 2013, with more countries  to be confirmed within the next few weeks. 

In addition to the global TV broadcast, hundreds of cinemas in the UK and around the world are also confirming their plans to screen the hotly anticipated special episode simultaneously in full 3D, giving fans another unique opportunity to be part of a truly global celebration for the iconic British drama series. 216 VUE, Cineworld, Odeon, BFI and Picturehouse cinemas in the UK and Ireland have already confirmed their participation, with tickets for the anniversary screening set to go on sale this Friday October 25th at 9am. Locations include London, Birmingham, Belfast, Dublin, Liverpool, Cardiff and Edinburgh. 

Internationally, German, Russian, American* and Canadian* fans will gather in cinemas to enjoy the simulcast release, approximately 30 cinemas in Germany will screen the special and up to 50 theatres will debut it in Russia.  The celebrations will cross time zones travelling over the equator to New Zealand and Australia where fans will have a choice of 106 cinemas across both countries to view the episode in 3D on the big screen on the 24th November following the simulcast TV broadcast earlier in the morning.

In addition to Matt Smith the one-off special, entitled The Day of the Doctor stars former Time Lord David Tennant and Jenna Coleman with Billie Piper, and John Hurt

*BBC America will this week announce details regarding the 3D screenings of the anniversary episode in select theatres across the US and Canada.

+  The Day Of The Doctor will simulcast worldwide on 23rd November 2013, at 7:30pm**.

**Time to be confirmed. 

[Source: BBC Worldwide]

22 October 2013
 a

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

Day 295: The Mind of Evil, Episode Six

Dear diary,

If there’s one thing that Don Houghton is great at, it’s pitching the relationship between the Doctor and the Brigadier at just the right level. There’s no doubt that this is the same man who wrote those closing moments of Inferno, in which the Doctor decided he’s had enough and makes to leave for good – the antagonism between the pair is at its very best in these scripts.

Still, it’s nice to see that things have at least softened a little between the pair. There’s less outright dislike here, and more a sense of gentle teasing. The Brigadier arrives in the prison and shoots the enemy just in time to spare his Scientific Advisor’s life, and the Doctor asks if – just for once – the man could arrive before the nick of time. Later on he jokes that aside from losing both the missile and the Master, the Brig is doing very well in his job. It’s far friendlier than we’ve seen between them for some time, but it’s great to still see them playing off each other.

It’s a shame that I’ve still not really enjoyed this story. When today’s episode started, I thought it was strange that they’d gone back far enough to show a reprise of UNIT storming the prison – it felt like ages ago. It’s another one of those situations where I simply couldn’t remember what had happened in the cliffhanger, despite only seeing it 24 hours before. The Mind of Evil hasn’t boasted the best cliffhangers that we’ve ever had on the show. Several of them are essentially the same thing (the Keller Machine attacking someone. Usually the Doctor.), and the others just haven’t lodged in my memory. The positive is that we get to see a few shots of the Doctor’s old enemies (Cybermen, and Daleks, and Ice Warriors, oh my!), but there’s some odd choices in there. A Zarbi is bizarre enough, but Koquillion? Really? He’s one of the Doctor’s greatest fears?

What struck me the most about today’s episode is how much it feels like a nice ending to the appearance of the Master in the series. The dematerialisation circuit that the Doctor stole in Terror of the Autons makes a reappearance in the denouement, and the master takes it back, before heading off to the stars. During their final phone conversation (this pair spend a lot of time on the phone, don’t they?), the Doctor muses that they won’t be seeing the Master for a while, and he agrees, adding ‘By the way, Doctor, enjoy your exile!’ For all intents and purposes, it feels like we’re saying goodbye to the character after ten episodes and that we’re ready to move on to something different. Were the Master to suddenly turn up at the end of the season as a surprise, I think it would work brilliantly.

Sadly, I know that’s not the case. He’ll be back again in the very next story. So much for not seeing the Doctor again for ‘quite some time’! And yet… I’m specifically looking forward to it. The idea of this character turning up so frequently this season was one of the things not really exciting me about this run of stories, but I’ve been so won over by the man that I can’t help but anticipate their next battle.

Mind you, his plan is a bit rubbish again this week, innit? He’ll use the missile to spark off a war, destroying the Earth… and then take over of ruler to the now-dead planet. Not sure he’s really thought that through…

21 October 2013
 a

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

Day 294: The Mind of Evil, Episode Five

Dear diary,

For the first couple of episodes in this story, it seemed like everything was going well. My interest had been raised back up after the season opener, we were seeing a better relationship between the Doctor and his companion, the setting was one that I liked, and everything seemed to be moving in the right general direction. Over the last couple of days, though, I've started to find my attention wandering.

I think there's a couple of reasons for it, but I'm not sure which is having the bigger effect. For starters, we've now pretty much entirely moved away from the contemporary London setting that I was so loving to begin with. As nice as the prison looks, it just doesn't have the same feel that all that location shooting in ordinary streets did. Secondly… the more I think about it, the more the plot just doesn't hold together. UNIT are supposed to be providing security to a major world peace conference, but by the time of today's episode, half the force has been attacked by the prisoners, another half is storming the prison itself, and the three top men (I know that - strictly speaking - Yates and Benton aren't really the 'top men' of UNIT, but they are in the eyes of anyone watching the Pertwee years!) are all away from the main conference, too.

Who's looking after things in London? I know they've removed the Master's influence on Captain Chin Lee, but at a conference where several delegates have been murdered and important documents have gone 'missing', you think they'd need to have someone keeping an eye on things!

And then you've got poor Jo - she's not been outside the prison walls since Episode One, and most of the time she's spent locked away in that cell. All of this means that I'm noticing far more the different variations on the old 'capture-and-escape' routine that usually pads out a third episode.

It's not all bad. Today we get a fantastic sequence in which UNIT storm the prison, and it's possibly the most useful we've ever seen them. It comes on the heels of a scene in which the Brigadier pretends to be delivering provisions (and the whole story is justified simply by hearing Nick Courtney - in as 'man-in-the-street' voice possible - use the word 'nosh'), and then it's all brilliant from there on out. The soldiers sneaking from the back of the van ready to attack is great, and the storming of the castle (complete with men climbing the walls!) is one of the best directed sequences we've had in a while. Director Timothy Combe has been with us in one form or another since as far back as The Keys of Marinus, so it's a shame to see him making his departure from the programme in this serial.

The attack on the prison does have to go down as another one of those things that just doesn't quite make sense, mind. The Brigadier is presented with a map and a suggestion is made that there could be a secret way in - it is an old castle after all. Luckily enough, there is! That's convenient. The Brigadier even knows the way. Also convenient. Above and beyond that - and despite the place now being home to hardened criminals - the secret passageway has never been blocked off. That's really convenient.

And also a little bit stupid.

But then they don't seem to use the secret entrance! They simply drive up to the gate with a big old van of nosh! There was one moment when a group of UNIT soldiers ascended some steps which seemed to be coming from a tunnel, and I assumed that it must be the secret way in, but it can't be because it's too bloody obvious! The prisoner's would be in and out as they please. It's never a good sign when I start to worry more about things not adding up than simply enjoying the story, so I'm hoping that things turn around for me in the final instalment. This story also marks the final contribution of Don Houghton to the series, and he did so impress me with Inferno a few weeks ago, I'd love to see him leave on a high…

20 October 2013
 a

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

Day 293: The Mind of Evil, Episode Four

Dear diary,

I think the thing I'm enjoying the most about The Mind of Evil is how well it showcases the Doctor and the Master as enjoying their little squabble. When John Simm took over the role in 2007, much was made about the fact that he was a Master to play specifically against David Tennant's incarnation of the Doctor. He was young, and energetic. He would talk at a million miles per hour and pull faces in just the same way. It was an incarnation of the character designed to work against the Tenth Doctor, and I'm not sure how well he would fit in playing opposite any of the others.

Having never really watched this incarnation of the Master before, my main exposure to the character has been in the form of the Ainley version - who played against four incarnations from Tom Baker to Sylvester McCoy. Sure, he's got lots of characteristics that I instantly equate with being quintessentially 'Master-ish', but he isn't tailored to each individual version of his nemesis. I think he works fairly well against them all to some extent, but you can tell he's not custom-created.

The only other point of reference that I've really got comes in the form of the Master's precursor - for want of a better word - the Meddling Monk. Peter Butterworth was a great foil for William Hartnell, and came at a time when the character had softened somewhat. It meant that his little giggles and smiles fitted perfectly with the Doctor we'd been getting used to throughout the second season, but he was able to bring out the fire at the heart of that incarnation.

Moreso than the Monk, though, I'm finding that the Delgado Master is very much designed to be a part of the Third Doctor's life, and this episode highlights that perfectly. At various stages, they each call Jo 'my dear', and if the point had been lost on us, they abandon all subtlety and go for a full-on crossfade between the characters at one point, which has the odd effect of looking a bit like a dodgy regeneration. It's a joy to watch the pair of them on the screen together, though, and the moment that the Master frees his foe from the attack of the Keller Machine is wonderful.

'We're both Time Lords,' he pleads, and it gives us a dynamic that we've never been able to see in the series before. There's shades of the same argument used in The War Games, when the War Chief tries to make the Doctor help him, but it's great to see that angle being played out with a long-running character (or, at least, a character who will become long-running).

Yesterday's episode gave us perhaps the best examples of the Doctor and the Master playing a game with each other - the Doctor strolls into the Governer's office to find his nemesis sitting behind the desk, and simply says 'Yes… I thought as much…' while he takes his seat. A few scenes later, having made his escape, the Doctor barricades himself in with the machine, only to find the Master waiting casually for him behind the door. We've just watched the Doctor make his way across the prison in a proper action sequence, but the Master greets him by saying 'I thought you'd make for here…', before setting up the cliffhanger.

The pair are simply playing a game with each other, and it's a great counterpoint to all the high-stakes playing out elsewhere in the story. Today sees the missile being taken out of UNIT's hands (Again, you have to wonder why this lot have been entrusted with such high-stake jobs - I know it's the Master pulling strings in the right places, but surely there must have been a real wall of objection?!), and a wholesale slaughter of their soldiers - but it still feels as though the Doctor and the Master are playing cowboys and indians for fun. It's brilliant - and I'm really glad to see why people are always banging on about Delgado being THE Master.

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

Day 292: The Mind of Evil, Episode Three

Dear diary,

Terror of the Autons feels like an absolute age back – everything here feels much more to my liking. I think it’s Jo who highlights this best. We’re a far cry from the character who’d managed to ruin the Doctor’s experiment and get hypnotised by the Master all on her first day at UNIT. The Jo in this story is far more confident and resourceful, seizing her opportunity to end the prison riot and trying to make the most of the situation. It’s odd to say it, but I think Jo here feels more like the kind of Doctor Who companion that I’ve gotten used to in this marathon – they’re not always the sharpest tools in the box, but they often highlight why they’re such a boon to the Doctor’s life.

It’s also lovely to see how much her relationship with the Doctor has evolved since the last story. It was evident right from the start, in the way the pair first drove up to the prison. They’re comfortable with each other, and more than that, they’re happy with each other. What’s great in today’s episode is the moment the Doctor learns about the riot in the prison, and his first reaction is to jump up and ask after Jo’s safety.

All of this does make me wonder, though… just how much time has passed since the events of the second Nestene invasion attempt? It feels like the Doctor and Jo have spent quite some time together, getting used to each other. It could just be that after the events of Terror of the Autons, all their barriers were down and they were able to simply become good friends - but if feels like they've been together for a fair old while by this point.

Equally, today sees the revelation that Professor Keller - inventor of the machine causing all this trouble - is actually the Master. A few episodes ago we're told that the machine was installed at Strangmoor prison almost a year ago. Does this mean that the Nestene attack was even further back than that? I think the Doctor's tinkering with the Master's TARDIS simply prevented him from leaving Earth, as opposed to playing with time, so he could have nipped back twelve months or so to begin his work?

I'm still avoiding any real discussion of a UNIT timeline at this stage (I've still not seen enough to make any definitive statements on the subject), though the third volume of the About Time books suggests a placement of October 1971 for Terror of the Autons and somewhere in mid-to-late 1972 for this story (and the next few, too). For now I guess I'm happy to go along with that. Throughout Season Seven, it was implied that large stretches of time happened here and there, in which Liz simply assisted the Doctor with making repairs to the TARDIS, so I suppose the same could have been happening here.

'm also wondering if that's why UNIT have been given a task as comparatively mundane as looking after security at a peace conference (compared to fighting off aliens, anyway)? There's been little alien activity on the planet since the Master fled the radio telescope, so they're being reassigned to other tasks to justify their existence? I will be trying to piece together my own timeline later on in this era, but for now I'll keep monitoring events…

19 October 2013

A specially created trailer celebrating the last 50 years of Doctor Who will air Tonight at 8:20pm on BBC One.

Travelling through time fans will be taken on a journey from the very beginning using state of the art technology.  The special trailer is set to show all of the Doctors as they first appeared on screen, including William Hartnell in high res colour for the very first time, as celebrations ramp up to the 23rd November.

A huge moment for the BBC, the 50th celebrations will culminate with the special episode, ‘The Day of the Doctor’, starring Matt Smith, David Tennant and Jenna Coleman with Billie Piper and John Hurt. A whole range of shows have also been commissioned across TV and radio to mark the anniversary.

The minute long trailer will air after Strictly Come Dancing tonight on BBC One and will be also be available to view right here on DWO.

** This trailer does not include any actual footage of the 50th anniversary episode.

UPDATED - 19th October 2013 @ 8:22pm

The trailer has now aired and you can watch it below:


UPDATED - 20th October 2013 @ 10:45am

DWO's very own Will Brooks has added 3D to the BBC's trailer, making it even more awesome! Check it out in all its glory, below:

To coincide the trailer, DWO also have a new image featuring all 11 Doctors, added to our BBC Pictures account which you can now view to the right.

But where's the trailer for 'The Day Of The Doctor'?

Good question! In fact, it's one of the most common questions we've been getting on the @DrWhoOnline Twitter account since the airing of a special trailer at this year's San Diego Comic Con.  We like our facts and figures here at DWO, and although we couldn't count them all, we've had well over 8,000+ requests via Twitter and email from fans wanting to know when the trailer will air.

We believe a trailer will be airing either on Saturday 26th October or Saturday 2nd November. DWO also understand that the floodgates will open, promotion-wise, and the 50th Anniversary special (along with said promotion) will, as Steven Moffat put it all those moons ago, "Take over TV".

+  Follow @DrWhoOnline on Twitter!

[Source: BBC]

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

Day 291: The Mind of Evil, Episode Two

Dear diary,

One of the things I've found most rewarding about doing The 50 Year Diary is finding that Doctor Who is far richer than I'd ever realised. There's always little coincidences that crop up, which makes experiencing it all in sequence all the more rewarding. It's things like Nicholas Courtney helping the First Doctor to fight the Daleks, before returning to the Time Lord's life in a different role, or seeing the evolution of Doctors and companions over the years.

Today it's all about those few places in time and space which just attract aliens. I had a wonderful feeling when watching bits of today's episode that I'd been here before. It was when the road sign for 'Cromwell Gardens' appeared that I thought 'ah! The First Doctor fought the War Machines around there!' before suddenly realising that - actually - he'd trapped a War Machine in that very spot! Because I've never seen The Mind of Evil before, I didn't know that the series had ever returned to this location, but suddenly noticing it gives me such a great feeling - it's a whole extra layer to what I'm watching, and gives me a slightly odd nostalgic pang for William Hartnell!

It has to be said that this same scene is a wonderful example of why CSO isn't always the answer. When Captain Chin Lee makes her phone call, it looks so much better than a similar scene in the previous story, in which the background had been added via Colour Separation. It just feels more natural. Actually, all the location work in this story is lovely, and it feels like the right kind of setting for me. Central London is a location that I praised in The War Machines (fittingly, it seems!), The Invasion, and Doctor Who and the Silurians, and it's great to see so much time being spent here. I wonder if this might be another problem I had with the last story - the setting of a circus was just too 'out there' for what appeals to me?

Watching Benton (badly) try to keep tabs on a suspect, or seeing the Master stroll across a park just feels much more real to me, and I think that all helps. The shot that appealed to me most is only a few seconds long - the Doctor and the Brigadier exit the house and walk along the road. It's simple. It's short. It's real. It looks so good to see the Doctor out and about in his fancy dress (and it's become even more fancy dress now, with the addition of the red jacket) amongst real people going about their lives. It really helps to focus the series as being set in then contemporary Britain.

In some ways, I should be disappointed to see the Master turning up again today (I knew he was in the story - indeed, it's the only thing that I do know about this one!), but I was actually quite pleased to see him. It helps that he arrives on the scene utilising a disguise very well once again, and that once he has shown his face, he's back to being very suave. It's another chance to draw a comparison with The War Machines - there, I said that the Doctor looked out of place sat in the back of a car, as I was so used to seeing him out and about on Mechanus, or back in time during the Crusades. Here, the Master just looks right dressed smartly and smoking a cigar as he sits in the back of a car to hold a 'meeting'.

The way he hypnotises Chin Lee paints him as being very in control of the situation, and he feels like a genuine threat. While UNIT are busy running around, out of their depth, he knows exactly what he's doing, and he seems to be rather enjoying himself…

18 October 2013

BBC Books have sent DWO some further information and covers for their new Doctor Who: Time Trips series.

Jake Arnott, Cecelia Ahern and Joanne Harris have today been confirmed to write for BBC Books' Doctor Who: Time TripsThey join award-winning writers AL Kennedy, Jenny Colgan, Nick Harkaway and Trudi Canavan for new Doctor Who digital shorts series.

The series will launch on 5th December with The Death Pit, a Fourth Doctor adventure by AL Kennedy. It then publishes monthly throughout 2014: the spring’s selections include Jenny Colgan’s Eleventh Doctor adventure, Into the Nowhere (Jan); Nick Harkaway’s take on the Tenth Doctor, Keeping Up with the Joneses (Feb); Trudi Canavan’s tribute to the Third Doctor, Salt of the Earth (Mar); and Jake Arnott’s Sixth Doctor adventure in April. Cecelia Ahern’s and Joanne Harris’s stories will publish later in the year.

Cecelia Aherne said:

"I’m so excited to have written a story for the Time Trips series and I enjoyed writing every word. Doctor Who is an institution and to be involved in the 50th anniversary is beyond a dream – it is an honour’"

Jake Arnott adds:

"Writing for the Time Trips series really was a trip – the chance to jump around in time, space and genre, to play around with a classic of popular culture and try to find a place in its vast universe – but most of all it was an opportunity to travel back all those light years ago when I was a kid, full of wonder, watching Doctor Who for the first time"

Joanne Harris says:

"I remember watching Doctor Who from a very early age, from a cushion fort behind the sofa. As I grew older I began to really understand and appreciate the show. When the series was revived I was thrilled to watch its transition into the 21st Century, just as I’m thrilled now to be contributing to this series of stories. Fifty is no great age (I tell myself this as my own fiftieth approaches!) and you’re never too old for stories. Happy Birthday Doctor Who. May your candles never go out"

AL Kennedy said:

"I was first introduced to Doctor Who when I was three or four and he has been a happy part of my life ever since. I am delighted to become in any way a part of his stories"

Jenny Colgan, also a lifelong Doctor Who fan, said:

"It is such an honour to be part of the prestigous Time Trips line-up, with so many excitingly fresh perspectives on the Doctor's life and adventures"

Nick Harkaway added:

"There is a list of calls you want and know you’ll never get. Joel Rubichon invites you to eat any time; Penelope Cruz needs a tango partner…and then someone calls and asks you if you want to write a story for a new BBC Books’ Doctor Who digital series. And that is the real thing and it feels every bit as fantastic as you would imagine. I’m sure the tango would be good too, mind you."

Publishing Schedule:

Doctor Who: The Death Pit
A.L. Kennedy
Published: 5th December 2013
+  PREORDER from Amazon.co.uk for £1.37

Doctor Who: Into the Nowhere
Published: 9th January 2014
Jenny T. Colgan
+  PREORDER from Amazon.co.uk for £1.37

Doctor Who: Keeping Up with the Joneses 
Nick Harkaway
Published: 6th February 2014
+  PREORDER from Amazon.co.uk for £1.37!

Doctor Who: Salt of the Earth
Trudi Canavan
Published: 6th March 2014
+  PREORDER from Amazon.co.uk for £1.37!

Doctor Who: A Handful of Stardust
by Jake Arnott
Published: 3rd April 2014

+  Time Trips launches from 5th December 2013 from BBC Digital and publishes monthly throughout 2014, priced £1.99 each.

[Source: BBC Books]

18 October 2013

Fans of Doctor Who can now keep all 11 incarnations of the good Doctor together in one place as New Zealand Mint has struck the ultimate collectors set in 1⁄2 ounce 999 Fine Silver coins that carry a coloured image of all 11 Doctors to have played the role since the series creation in 1963.

Produced in collaboration with BBC Worldwide Australia & New Zealand, the limited edition coin set comes packed in a 3D replica of the Doctor’s fob watch.

The coins are legal tender for $1 in the South Pacific Island nation of Niue, making them an ideal item for Doctor Who fans around the world.

NZ Mint chief executive Simon Harding says:

“There are not many television shows which boast a 50 year history. To be able to celebrate that evolution in such a unique way, as this silver coin set does, is something Doctor Who fans will love.”

Rachael Hammond, BBC Worldwide ANZ’s Senior Licensing Executive, Consumer Products, adds:

“To celebrate 50 years is a remarkable achievement for a television show and these 11 silver coins provide a a worthy memento of Doctor Who’s enduring popularity.”

Only 3,000 sets will be issued for sale worldwide, with a further 1,000 coins offered for individual sale of each of the 11 Doctor coins.

The 50th Anniversary Doctor Who set will be available for purchase from the New Zealand Mint website www.nzmint.com for NZ$699, while the individual Doctor coins are priced at NZ$80 each.

UK fans will be able to purchase the coin set from NZ Mint's UK vendor, Minted UK.

[Source: New Zealand Mint]

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

Day 290: The Mind of Evil, Episode One

Dear diary,

It’s funny how simply being onto a new story has instantly turned around my mood – I’ve enjoyed today’s episode a lot more than I did anything from Terror of the Autons. I think it helps that everyone seems to be far more settled into their roles now, too. The Doctor and Jo laugh and joke as they approach Dracula’s castle – sorry, the prison – and his messing about into the security camera is brilliant - very Doctor, and I don’t think it would look out of place if Troughton or Tom Baker were doing it.

Once we’re inside, the Doctor is back to his usual pompous self… but I quite like that! He undercuts the demonstration of the Keller Machine at every turn by chipping in his own commentary on the situation. Rude and arrogant, yes, but it’s very in keeping with this incarnation, and I’m finding myself quite liking it. Professor Kettering's reactions to the constant interruptions are great fun, too.

As for the machine itself… well that’s nonsense. At one point, then Doctor asks what happens to all the negative energies once they’ve been extracted is that they’re simply stored in there – but not to worry because it’s only 65% full. Surely they’ve not thought this through, though? What happens in a few more experiments time, when it’s teetering on the 100% full mark? Do they construct another machine and bury this one as though it were nuclear waste? I’m surprised (although pleased) that the Master hasn’t turned up today, but I’m guessing he’s probably on his way to steal the machine, or he’s the one behind the invention in the first place.

It’s really good to see the Doctor and UNIT working on different missions. They can’t be foiling an alien invasion every day of the week, so it’s good to see them being given something more ordinary to do in managing the security for a peace conference. I’ve seen their performance before now, mind, so I’m not sure that I’d trust them with such an important job… I think what pleases me is that I’m just as interested by their story as I am the one that the Doctor is following up.

We get a good opportunity to see the Brigadier out on his own, away from the Doctor, too. I’ve said it a few times over the last few months, but we really are lucky to have an actor like Nicholas Courtney be so vitally involved with the programme. He does a great stock in ‘apathetic’ and 'exasperated' acting, and his reactions to Captain Chin Lee today aren’t a million miles away from the way he finds himself feeling in the Doctor’s company.

I think what’s impressed me the most about today’s episode is the colour of it. Until very recently, this tale only existed as a black and white copy, but restoration for the DVD has seen the entire serial returned to full colour for the first time since the 1970s. It's been brought back to life by hand-colouring several key frames, and then using a number of techniques to make this work for the full story.

It’s the work of the very talented Stuart Humphryes and Peter Crocker. Now, I knew they’d colourised this story. When it was announced, everyone was so excited about it. It’s telling that I only remembered the fact after I’d started writing this entry – the work is fantastic. I can’t begin to imagine the amount of patience needed to complete a project like this, but it’s well worth it because it looks gorgeous.

It does make me wonder, though, about a specific scene of the episode. During the demonstration of the Keller machine – while I’d forgotten about the recolourisation of the episode – I made a note about how good it looked once the lights were dimmed and the room was bathed in a pale blue light. Far more effective than the regular lighting on the set, and I was all ready to declare it as being better than a lot of the lighting we get in the programme. I’m wondering now if it would have looked as good as that originally, or if some of it is down to to the skill in the colouring? Either way, it looked stunning, and brought me completely on board with the story. We’re off to a good start…

16 October 2013
 a

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

Day 289: Terror of the Autons, Episode Four

Dear diary,

Just what is the Master's plan in this story? The Master seems pretty chuffed with himself today when he declares that because he's helped the Nestenes invade, they won't kill him… but he's only on this planet to help them invade. If he wasn't trying to help them, there wouldn't be any risk of them killing him anyway! The only thing that I can think of is that they've (somehow) got him under the thumb, and are forcing him to come to Earth and help with their invasion plans. Haven't a clue how they might manage that, but it makes more sense than him helping them out simply for the hell of it.

It's not the greatest of starts for the character, really, but I suppose it is the perfect example of starting as you mean to go on. While I've not been all that impressed with his plan, the Master has been a fun villain to watch, and I'm glad we're finally at the point where he starts cropping up. It's nice that the Doctor has someone to battle against as a new arch enemy - and his reaction at the end of this story would seem to suggest that he agrees. My only problem with it is that I know the Master will be back in the very next story. Wouldn't it be more effective if he didn't show up again until the end of the season?

Still, I'm very impressed by the master's escape attempt. In the 1980s (the period of the Master that I'm most familiar with), he dresses up in elaborate disguises simply because… well… it means that they can reveal him as the surprise villain for a cliffhanger. In The Mark of the Rani, he seems to dress as a scarecrow simply because he gets a kick out of it. Here, though, it's being used really well, actively disposing of a puppet he no longer needs by dressing him up and sending him out for UNIT to shoot. Mike doesn't waste any time, though, does he? The second he gets a chance… bang!

As if you couldn't tell, I'm still not all that impressed by Terror of the Autons. It feels like it's actively trying to be a stumbling block for me, as though it's a punishment for enjoying Season Seven as much as I did. There's bits of today's story which makes UNIT look like Dad's Army, but even they couldn't help to get me interested. As I've said before, I think it's the effect of having loved Spearhead From Space so much, that this just doesn't seem to hold up to it.

I'm hoping that the next story will be able to knock me out of this funk and get me back to enjoying the series again. Terror of the Autons has reminded me much more of the Third Doctor's era I have in my head - one that I don't much care for. The Mind of Evil is a return for Don Houghton (writer of Inferno, which rated very well with me), so I'm crossing lots of fingers that he'll be able to get things back on track…

16 October 2013

The first official Postage Stamps in history to feature Doctor Who are now available in North America!

Our friends at the British Stamp Service in North America have limited supplies of all the official Doctor Who Postage Stamps issued in 2013 by Britain's Royal Mail! Celebrating the big 50th Anniversary, these limited edition stamps commemorate the entire history of Doctor Who.

A special set of 11 stamps features every doctor from William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton to David Tennant and Matt Smith. Each one of the Doctor's 11 incarnations gets his own stamp.

A Souvenir Sheet of five additional stamps features some of the Doctor's most famous adversaries: the Cybermen, the Ood, the Weeping Angels and, of course, the Daleks. A special stamp floating in the middle depicts the Tardis.

There are also exclusive collector Presentation Packs and Prestige Booklets featuring lots of full-color artwork as well as detailed narratives on each of the 11 Doctors by Doctor Who expert Gary Russell.

There's even a stamp sheet chronicling the evolution of some of the Doctor's legendary foes, including the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Silurians, and the Master - from Roger Delgado and Anthony Ainley to John Simm.

These are already among the bestselling stamps in British history---and very hard to find in North America at any reasonable price---so we were thrilled when we found out about this opportunity to get them in the U.S. and Canada.

+  Order the stamps now at: www.unicover.com/doctor.htm

[Source: Unicover]

<mce:script

16 October 2013

Doctor Who Magazine have sent DWO the cover and details for Issue 466 of DWM.

DWM talks exclusively to the man who found nine missing episodes of Doctor Who: Philip Morris

“It’s my job to put a smile on Doctor Who fans’ faces,” says PHILIP MORRIS, who recently discovered the film copies of The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear, “in complete co-operation with BBC Worldwide. Doctor Who fans need to know that we are actively searching for material. So don’t lose hope!”

Plus: Missing episodes experts PAUL VANEZIS and PETER CROCKER explain their role in restoring these decades-old films to their former glory! 

Also this issue:

BACK TO THE BEGINNING...
An exclusive preview of the new BBC Two drama, AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE AND TIME, which tells the story of the origins of Doctor Who and featuring an interview with DAVID BRADLEY, who plays William Hartnell, the actor who created the role of the Doctor. 

FIRST DIRECTION
WARIS HUSSEIN, who directed the very first Doctor Who serial in 1963 talks exclusively to DWM, and reveals how he and the cast were able to overcome the limitations of the show’s tiny budget and create something that has lasted for 50 years. 

THE GODFATHER
With excerpts from a previously unpublished archive interview, DWM presents a profile of SYDNEY NEWMAN, the man responsible for the birth of Doctor Who and for revolutionising TV drama production in the UK in the late 1950s and early 1960s. 

GOODBYE AND WELCOME…
Doctor Who showrunner and head writer  STEVEN MOFFAT writes exclusively for DWM and tells of the momentous day when outgoing Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith handed over the key to the TARDIS to incoming Twelfth Doctor – Peter Capaldi.

DO I HAVE THE RIGHT…?
The Fourth Doctor is taken on a detour to the planet Skaro by the Time Lords and given the task of preventing the creation of his deadliest enemies, the Daleks. THE FACT OF FICTION takes a look at one of Doctor Who’s undisputed classics, GENESIS OF THE DALEKS, and unearths some new and fascinating facts about the 1975 six-part serial and its origins. 

TOP OF THE POPS
The votes are in for the 2013 DWM readers’ Season Survey and the winners are revealed, including your favourite story, best guest stars, best writer, and favourite musical score!

NEVER ENDING STORY…
DWM’s journey through Doctor Who’s long history reaches its end with this year’s thirty-third series, in COUNTDOWN TO 50. We join the Doctor on his quest to solve the mystery of the impossible girl – his new companion, Clara, who he has already seen die twice. When the Doctor’s very existence is threatened by the Great Intelligence, Clara travels into the Doctor’s past to save his future…

A HAPPY ENDING?
The Doctor and Clara uncover the dark truth behind the cartoon capers in the second and final part of the comic-strip adventure, WELCOME TO TICKLE TOWN, written by SCOTT GRAY with art by ADRIAN SALMON.

VOTE SAXON!
Chris, Emma, Michael and Will are gobsmacked to find that the Master is the new Prime Minister of Great Britain and has a rather unusual approach to foreign affairs! The TIME TEAM take their seats for 2007’s THE SOUND OF DRUMS. Will it get their vote?

JUMP START
Mother of twins and devoted fan JACQUELINE RAYNER ponders on the importance of the first episode of a Doctor Who story, cherishing that slow build to the inevitable appearance of the monster in the closing seconds. Her son, however, prefers to skip straight to Episode Two!

DOCTOR BLUE?
The Watcher takes sound effects as his cue in this issue’s A History of Doctor Who in 100 Objects and champions the essential role they have played over the series’ 50 years. Plus another hapless extra gets his moment in the spotlight as Supporting Artist of the Month; we get a rundown of the Top Ten Boybands, all with a suitable Doctor Who twist; and The Six Faces of Delusion invites you to spot the sound effect themed fact that hits the wrong note. All in this issue’s fun-packed Wotcha!

PLUS! All the latest official news, TV and merchandise reviews, previews, ratings analysis, competitions, a prize-winning crossword and much, much more!

+  Doctor Who Magazine Issue #466 is Out Tomorrow, priced £4.75.

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

+  Check Out The DWO Guide to Doctor Who Magazine!

[Source: Doctor Who Magazine]

16 October 2013

BBC America have released some new promo pictures for the upcoming 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who; The Day Of The Doctor:

Enlarge Image Enlarge Image Enlarge Image Enlarge Image
   
Enlarge Image Enlarge Image    

+  The Day Of The Doctor simulcasts worldwide on 23rd November 2013, at 7:45pm GMT

[Source: BBC]

15 October 2013
 a

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

Day 288: Terror of the Autons, Episode Three

Dear diary,

I think Terror of the Autons is stuck in one of those awkward situations where it doesn't matter what it does - I'm just not going to like it. I commented a few days ago that I was being put off by the bright colours and the way that I worried the series would dumb down by replacing Liz with Jo, and it feels like I'm constantly waiting to be proven right. I think that I need to have one really brilliant story to knock me back on track, but this just isn't it.

I was trying to explain the problem to Ellie earlier (I don't think she really cares, but she listens, and that's the next best thing), and I said part of the problem is that I'm three quarters of the way through the story and nothing has happened yet. Well that's clearly not true - the Master has arrived on Earth, he's taken control of a plastics factory by hypnotising the right people, and killing anyone else, the Autons are on the move, the Doctor's dodging attempts on his life… there's loads going on, I just feel a bit detached from it.

While I still don't think the Autons here look quite as good as they did during Spearhead From Space, today's episode has at least given me two chances to really enjoy them. The first - of course - has to be the way the Doctor opens a safe to find one waiting inside, gun at the ready. It seemed so obvious after the fact, but I didn't see it coming, which made it a nice surprise. The other occasion is the 'daffodil men', for want of a better word.

I've always had a real issue with these costumes. For years, I've assumed that they're fully plastic, and just what the Autons looked like in this story. It bothered me because they looked like such obvious costumes! A few weeks ago, while I was finishing up on the Troughton era, one of the original masks from these costumes surfaced on eBay. I was really put off by how noticeable the eyeholes were on it - not a good design at all. Except… they're supposed to be costumes! I'd never realised before! There's one particular shot of an Auton lowering the mask over its own blank face, and it's the first time that this version has really made an impact on me. Still not as good as the previous design (I think it's telling that they sell action figures of the Autons from Spearhead, Rose, and The Pandorica Opens, but not this story…), but I'm warming to it!

Of course, the real stand out for today's episode has to be 'first contact' between the Doctor and the Master. I love that it occurs on a telephone, as this is how they first meet in the 21st century version of the programme, too, and suddenly that scene has a whole new layer to it that I've never know about before. It's all so well played between the two men, and I can't wait for the pair to meet in person - I'm assuming it's going to come in the next episode, so I'm crossing my fingers that it could be the saving grace for this story - I feel like I really should like it, but there's just something holding me back…

14 October 2013
 a

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

Day 287: Terror of the Autons, Episode Two

Dear diary,

With Toberman to guard the Doctor, there's nothing to fear! I rather like the idea that a cast member from The Tomb of the Cybermen might turn up in every one of Petwee's seasons - we had Cyril Shaps in for The Ambassadors of Death, and today we've got Roy Stewart making the second of his two appearances in the programme, playing the strong silent type once again!

I spent a bit of time yesterday complaining that Jo Grant hand't really gotten off to the best start at UNIT. Thankfully, she's won me over completely today. Things started to turn around when even she started to point out how rubbish she'd been ('I find the man that everyone's looking for, forget where he is, and finish up by trying to blow you all sky-high!'), and you can't help but feel a bit sorry for her. She's got that same quality that made Jamie such a good companion, in that she's terribly loyal, and is desperate to do the best she can. It doesn't show the Doctor in the best of lights, though, when she saves him from imprisonment, and he immediately snaps at her for being there in the first place. I wasn't expecting an instant overnight change to a softer character between seasons, but he's just downright rude now!

I'm also finding myself drawn to the Master. He really is very sinister, isn't he? It's another one of those times where I'm surprised that they've taken this long to introduce a character like this (a Moriarty to the Doctor's Holmes, as Barry Letts' puts it several times in the special features on this DVD), although I suppose they did try a similar trick before in the form of the Meddling Monk. The Master is already outstripping the Monk in my estimations, though, and he's making a real impact after only two episodes. I'm loving all the little traps he keeps setting for the Doctor (although the man is keen on trying to blow his fellow Time Lord up, isn't he? That's three bombs in the first 50 minutes!), and the description of this being 'the eve of war' for the pair.

His introduction - and the knowledge that he'll be turning up in every single one of the stories this season - is all helping to make this feel like much more of an ensemble cast. The Doctor and Jo may be the Doctor and his companion, but you've also got the Brigadier, Benton, Mike, and the Master on hand to share some of the action. I think I quite like having so many of them around - it gives us a chance to see Jo being comforted by someone other than the Doctor, and it makes UNIT feel larger than it might otherwise.

Despite all these little things that I'm enjoying, I can't say I'm all that taken with Terror of the Autons. It just doesn't feel like a patch on their first story, and I think the look of the titular creatures isn't doing them any favours. It's a great cliffhanger when the Doctor pulls away the policeman's face to reveal the auto head underneath, but it just doesn't look as scary or effective as they did in Spearhead. I'm also not sure how I feel about the use of other plastics to inject some threat. On the one hand, the idea that the Nestenes can take control of any plastic item is a great one, and very in keeping with what we've seen established, but the scene with the chair just didn't do it for me (there's too much obvious 'grabbing' of the prop) and the troll doll just isn't as effective as I'd like (the design is hideous, although hI suppose that's the point).

If I'm lucky, the last half of the tale will pick things up for me, but if not then at least it's serving as a good introduction for our new regulars…

13 October 2013
 a

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

Day 286: Terror of the Autons, Episode One

Dear diary,

It almost feels like the first day back at school, this one. There's the Doctor, up to his usual tricks, the Brigadier is getting in the way, and Benton is pottering about in the background. We've got a few new kids in class this year, too, in the form of Jo Grant and Mike Yates, along with the new school bully - the Master.

It's confession time. I've never actually watched a full story featuring Rodger Delgardo's incarnation of the Master. I know, ok? I know. Everyone bangs on about how he's the best version of the character, and how he's so menacing and suave and wonderful, but for me he's simply in the wrong era. I've always been so dead-set against this period of the programme that I've never had any interest in checking it out. As if to make matters worse, I've seen every story to feature the Ainley incarnation at least twice!

I'm surprised to see him turning up so early into the story. His TARDIS - in the form of a horse box - materialises just over a minute in, and he's hopping out mere seconds later. He then doesn't waste any time setting himself up as this week's resident bad guy, hypnotising the circus owner, and setting off to steal a Nestene control device. As the story progresses, he shrinks at least one person (I'm assuming that they're dead after being shrunk?), takes control of a plastics factory, and revives some of the Auton bodies. It's a good start to the character, and I can see why people are so fond of him, but I'll reserve my judgement for now, and see what I make as the season goes on - there'll be plenty of chances to see him!

Making less of a great first impression on me is Jo, I'm sorry to say. I've found that it's an odd process working my way through this marathon - I move back and forth between dreading the thought of a certain story and being really excited for it. As I approached the Troughton era, I was dreading it. I'd become to close to Hartnell. Then, of course, it turned out to be simply fantastic. Fast forward a few months and I was dreading reaching Pertwee. And then I wasn't because I'd enjoyed The Invasion. And then I was again, 'cos I'd never been a fan. As Season Seven played out, though, I found myself really loving the style the series had taken on. All that left me with a bit of a problem…

I was loving the show being a bit serious, and having some pretty dark sequences (the more I think about it, the more the spread of the virus in Doctor Who and the Silurians is such a harsh image). I found that the Doctor and Liz worked well together, and everything just clicked for me. Suddenly, I was dreading Season Eight, and the introduction of a companion who - as the Brigadier puts it in this episode - is simply there to pass the Doctor test tubes and tell him how wonderful he is.

I've seen Jo's introduction before ('I'm your new assistant!' / 'Oh no…'), but it really feels like a let down after the introduction of Liz in Spearhead. There, we're being presented with a companion who doesn't especially want to be there, and could possibly be off doing something better. Here, Jo messes up the Doctor's experiment, and by the end of her first episode she's been captured by the enemy and brainwashed into wanting to kill the Doctor! Not off to the best start at the new job, is she? Thankfully, they have got the casting right - Katy Manning is simply fantastic right from the word 'go', and I think I can see myself being won over by her performance, if nothing else.

I'm also a bit dismayed at the look of this episode. As I say, the style of Season Seven ended up really drawing me in, and that stretched to the very real look of all the locations. The Doctor hard a different lab in each story - but they always felt like real places. The one he's based in today looks ridiculous! If anything, it all looks a bit too cartoon for me - and the bright colours of the set (that green door!) don't help… I know it's not around for long, so hopefully things will grow on me as time goes by. Pertwee's first 25 episodes did a lot to raise this era in my estimations, and I'd hate to see it all being for nothing…

Throughout Season Seven, I found myself making a note that simply said 'CSO' alongside many of the episodes. Colour Separation Overlay - or 'green screen' as we'd call it now - made its first appearance in Doctor Who and the Silurians, being used to give the shots of the dinosaur guard dog in the background mainly. I meant to bring it up there, but then I was swept along with the virus and the falling out between the Doctor and the Brig… It turns up pretty heavily in The Ambassadors of Death, too, when the Doctor is taken aboard that giant clam-like spaceship. Even Inferno uses it to provide the scene outside the Doctor's make-shift lab.

So, I told myself, having failed to mention it at all last season, I was to mention it at the absolute earliest opportunity this time around. Thankfully, today's episode gives me plenty of chances to bring it up! CSO provides the view from windows, the background to the museum, the effect of the Time Lord appearing in mid-air, the shrunken scientist in the lunchbox, and the room in which the Master is reviving his new Auton army. Some of the effects work a bit better than others, but that last one, with the Master, really put me off - the perspective of the background is all wrong! That, coupled with the oddly shiny Autons, knocked me right out of the story, and left me staring blankly at the screen.

This story is directed by Barry Letts, who was something of a pioneer when it came to the CSO process. He could see the benefit that the technology would have to making film and television, and will really push it to the limits during his time in the producer's chair. I'll be keeping an eye on how much more it crops up in this story, and seeing if anything can come across worse than that background…

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