Welcome to the News & Reviews section here at Doctor Who Online! This is where you will find all the latest Doctor Who related news and reviews split up into easy to use sections - each section is colour coded for your convenience. The latest items can be found at the top, and older items follow down the page.

Archived news and reviews can be accessed by clicking on the relevant area on the News / Reviews Key panels to the right.

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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!'

0
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]

<mce:script

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.

8/10 
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
8/a

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.

10
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
8/10

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.

9/10 
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…

8/10 
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.

[UPDATE]

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]

7 June 2013
8/10 Day 158: The Moonbase, Episode Three

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

Day 158: The Moonbase, Episode Three

Dear diary,

There's a moment in this episode, when Hobson comments that if they can't get the Gravitron back under control quickly, then the weather on Earth will be all over the place. I couldn't help but sympathise with that, as I listened to this episode on a walk home in the pouring rain. Does anyone know who I need to email if I want them to change the settings on their weather plans a little, and bring back the sunnier weather?

On the plus side, the darkening sky and downpour of rain really did help to amp up the atmosphere in this episode. Instantly, I realised why I'd always thought of myself as being such a fan of these Cybermen (and the ones in the next couple of Cyber-stories): they have such creepy voices! There's a real metallic drone to everything they say, and it really works. Even when they Cyberman is mocking the crew of the Moonbase ('Clever. Clever. Clever…'), there's something quite unnerving about the tone.

And these Cybermen are cruel. The ones in The Tenth Planet were pretty heartless, to be fair, wanting to suck Earth's power and then convert its inhabitants to Cybermen to ensure their survival, but the ones we're presented with here are really cruel. I'm thinking, specifically, of the moment when a Cyberman is told that humans can't be sent into the chamber, because they'll lose their minds. They Cyberman assertions how long they'd have before going insane, and then declares that it's longer than they're needed for, so it's no matter.

People often ask me why I prefer the Cybermen to the Daleks, and I think that just about sums it up. Daleks have no care for your life, they'll just kill you. Cybermen will get what they need from you first, and then if they don't kill you, they'll remove all your humanity and then shove you in a tin shell. Lovely.

It has to be said that the Doctor doesn't really do a whole lot in this episode. For the first fifteen minutes or so, he mostly sneaks around, playing with the various sonic controls When you take this and also think of his attempt to break a sonic lock with his recorder during The Power of the Daleks, you have to wonder if he's started to think about creating a Sonic Screwdriver yet. It turns up at the tail end of next season, and this almost feels like the early stages of its invention. I know it's not - they didn't plan things like that so far in advance in 1967 - but it's a nice little happenstance.

The benefit of the Doctor being taken out of the action a little is that it gives his companions a chance to shine. With the room to breathe, Jamie is allowed to wake up and take some screen time alongside Ben and Polly. It's great to see more being made of his 'companion from the past' status here again (Ben and Polly discuss the idea of using radiation to beat the Cybermen, before Jamie chimes in and announces that in his day, they used to throw Holy Water on witches… and that's what leads them to a solution!), and being given more of a chance to stand out.

Perhaps most interesting is the slight rivalry between Jamie and Ben when it comes to their fellow TARDIS traveller. It's very different to see two companions falling out like this, almost puffing out their chest to state their superiority, and I'm hoping that we see a bit more of it as we move forward. Certainly, it helps to remind us that Ben is a 1960s Cockney lad, and Michael Craze plays the scene beautifully. It also gives Jamie a great chance to show us that he's capable of standing up for himself, too.

Even Polly gets a chance to be important again, today. Following on from Jamie's suggestion of using Holy Water, it's Polly who comes up with the solution of disintegrating the Cybermen's chest units, with a number of different cleaning fluids. Ben even christens the concoction 'Polly Cocktail'!

This is more The Moonbase that I remember from my first viewing years and years ago. Full of suspense, with the Cybermen being devious and harsh, and the Doctor accompanied by a brilliant group of companions. The more I watch, the more I come to the conclusion that Season Four really is my season of Doctor Who - I'm loving it!

8/10 
7 June 2013

Character Options have sent DWO full details of the new 3.75" Doctor Who toy range.

Doctor Who 3.75-inch action figures (Series 7)

Regenerate your collection with the Doctor Who 3.75-inch scale action figures. A great gift for fans of any age, these highly detailed, realistic and poseable action figures include characters from Doctor Who Series 7. Re-enact scenes from the hit series or create your own adventures; help the Eleventh Doctor and Clara as they travel across space and time battling some famous foes like the supreme beings that are the Daleks, the terrifying Weeping Angels, vast Cybermen armies, and one of his oldest and coldest enemies…the Ice Warriors! Each character also has its own Doctor Who display base (Dalek action figures do not include display base) One supplied. For ages 5 years and over.

Assortment:

·  The Doctor
·  Clara Oswald
·  Dalek 
·  Cyberman
·  Ice Warrior
·  Weeping Angel

Character Options have provided DWO with the following product packshots:

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

Character Options have also sent DWO the following promotional videos:


 
+  The 3.75" Doctor Who Action Figures are Out Now, priced £6.99 each.
+  Buy Now from Forbidden Planet International

[Source: Character Options]

6 June 2013
8/10 Day 157: The Moonbase, Episode Two

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

Day 157: The Moonbase, Episode Two

Dear diary,

Because I listened to the soundtrack for yesterday’s episode, I didn’t get to see the cliffhanger in any way. It gets repeated at the start of this episode, and I couldn’t help but wonder… how obvious was it to kids watching at the time that these were Cybermen? I mean, there are similarities between this and The Tenth Planet’s design - the handlebar motif, mainly, and the eyes are similar enough, but was it a case of them being instantly recognisable?

I always used to think of the Cyber-designs from The Moonbase as being one of my favourites, but actually, I’m not so sure of that now. Having fallen so in love with the design on display a few weeks back, these just don’t pack the same punch. The moment that really convinced me of that was a shot of a Cyberman stood at the foot of Jamie’s bed.

The entire moment is played to shock you, as Polly turns around to see it, the camera pulling round to show us what she’s looking at. It works very well, but just imagine the shock of the reveal being one of the Tenth Planet models stood there, with a blank cotton-covered face! That would have a real impact.

I don’t think the design is helped by having them do things hat really aren’t flattering. There’s a great scene of the Cyberman breaking into the base via a hole in the store-room wall, as it pushes its way through, sending bags of food tumbling… and then we get to watch for a few seconds as the Cyberman stops and starts piling them back up again. It’s not exactly the most thrilling thing they’ve ever had to do. Or there’s the cliffhanger, which revolves around the Doctor finding another of the Cybermen taking a little nap under a blanket in the medical wing. That’s not their greatest moment, either.

It’s a shame, in some ways, because when they are being used well, they’re being used really well. The shot of them killing two of the crew on the surface of the Moon (and the subsequent shot of the two empty suits laying on the ground) is fantastic, and they do look quite imposing when they take the crew members from the medical ward. Hopefully, now that they’re on display to Hobson, we’ll be getting more Cyber-action that shows them in the best light.

All that said… I love their plan. Poisoning the sugar supply. I really wish that I didn’t know that was coming, since it’s a great reveal and a very clever idea. After all these years, that’s the one plot point that I’ve always remembered from The Moonbase. It helped by a fantastic special effect of the infection taking hold, spreading black lines across a hand. It’s an example of the programme trying a special effect and getting it so, so, right.

This is where, lately, I’ve been telling you that I’m not going to bother praising Troughton. Today, though, I think I need to make an exception. His ‘some corners of the universe’ speech is one of the best known moments of his entire era (it’s Troughton’s equivalent of the ‘one day, I shall come back’ moment), and it really is brilliant. It’s possibly the bit of Troughton that I find myself quoting the most (with the right initiation of ‘they must be fought!’), but even I’d forgotten just how great it was.

It also marks another key point in that journey that I was tracing for the First Doctor, in regards to becoming the man that we know and love today. With occasional backtracks, the Hartnell incarnation was pretty much at this point by the time we reached the end of Season Two. This is a great example of the Doctor really laying out the way that he views the universe. Ben suggests that they take Hobson’s orders and simply retreat to the TARDIS, but the Doctor argues that, no, they have to stay because there is evil to be fought in the base.

It’s a real high point for Troughton, and he seems to really relish playing the moment. He’s equally as fantastic during the cliffhanger, when he has to question Hobson about his men searching the medical bay. The camera pulls in really tight to Troughton, who switches to ‘serious’ for one of the very first times. We saw a bit of the serious side to this Doctor in The Power of the Daleks, but this is our first proper exposure to it.

And it really helps to sell the threat. When the Doctor is worried, we should be worried. I’ve grown so used to this incarnation playing everything as a game, it feels genuinely unusual for him to be in this kind of mood. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of chances for Troughton’s clowning around to creep into the story, too, though. The entire scene of him sneaking around in the main control room taking samples from the crew members is brilliant, as he stretches himself up and crouches down in the pursuit of data. Brilliant stuff.

And lets have a hand, please, for Space Adventure, the default Cyberman theme in this era. We heard bits of it yesterday as a cue that something was about to happen, but this is the first time that we’ve had it for any kind of sustained period, during the cliffhanger. I love Space Adventure. It’s quite possibly my favourite of all the music ever used in the series. I hum it when Ellie and me watch any Cyberman episode (It really got on her nerves during Nightmare in Silver a few weeks ago). For a while, it was even my ringtone. These days, I can’t even figure out how to change my ringtone, so it couldn’t be even if I wanted it to.

And now, I’m going to have it spinning in my head until tomorrow’s episode. Sing along with me, now…

8/10 
5 June 2013
8/10 Day 156: The Moonbase, Episode One

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

Day 156: The Moonbase, Episode One

Dear diary,

Ah, The Moonbase. Before starting on The 50 Year Diary, The Moonbase was one of the few missing stories that I’d watched in any form. Put simply. It’s because the soundtrack is available on the Lost in Time collection, so I think I went through them in the space of a day. It’s recently been confirmed for release with Episodes One and Three animated, but it’s not going to be available until long after I need to watch it, sadly. It’s been a few years since I last saw the story (I bought the Lost in Time DVDs on release, and that was about nine years ago, now), but I seem to recall liking it.

The thing I think I recall the most about this story is that Jamie doesn’t make much of an impact to the plot. I remember at the time thinking that this must be because he was added last-minute as a companion, but then watching The Underwater Menace, where he didn’t feel especially out of place (even if he did feel like he was simply filling a role), I wondered if I’d find myself pleasantly surprised.

Things start well enough, with a continuation of the TARDIS scene from yesterday’s episode, but it’s not long before Jamie has been knocked out and we’re left with him just waking up to mumble from time to time. It’s nice, at least, that what he’s mumbling seems to be tied in well with his Scottish heritage - with a family legend about the ‘Phantom Piper’.
With the members of the crew Who
are left awake for the rest of the episode, there’s quite a lot to enjoy. Being another in the mold of the ‘Base Under Siege’ story, there’s a number of similarities to The Tenth Planet, quite apart from the presence of the Cybermen. We’ve got the international crew (this time, our ‘comedy European’ is from France), A leader Who’s not overly keen on the Doctor (though Hobson is friendlier than General Cutler was), and a number of confined areas that could create good drama. Outside our base of choice, there’s an open expanse that cuts us off from the rest of humanity, with only a radio to keep us in contact (I can’t remember, but I’d not be surprised if the radios get damaged at some point before the story is over).

It sounds like I’m complaining about all these similarities, when the truth is that they work just as well here as they did in The Tenth Planet. The ‘Base Under Siege’ is something Doctor Who can do very well, especially in this era of the programme.

If anything, I think I’m more drawn to this story’s ‘hook’ than I was to the one in Hartnell’s swan song. Mysterious power-drain from a spaceship and the approach of a tenth planet was all very well, but I’m really enjoying the idea of the crew falling ill, seemingly at random, and the idea that there’s someone - or something - listening in to all the base’s radio communications.

I think this episode, much like the last of The Underwater Menace, is helped simply by being missing from the archives. While the Doctor, Ben, Polly, and Jamie all exit the TARDIS and bounce around on the surface of the Moon, I’m free to imagine it looking as good as I want. Were the episode to exist for me to actually watch, I fear that the result may end up looking not all that different to the swimming scene from Episode Three of our previous story.

It may help here that it would be against the black background of space, perhaps hiding the kirby wires a little better than the rocks of Atlantis did, but there’s a danger of it looking not quite as good as I’d like. As things go, it’s a strong start, but we’re about to enter a week or so of episodes existing seemingly at random, as I alternate between soundtracks and the Lost in Time DVDs on pretty much a daily basis…

7/10 
4 June 2013
8/1 Day 155: The Underwater Menace, Episode Four

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

Day 155: The Underwater Menace, Episode Four

Dear diary,

I’ve been waiting all the way through this story for the bottom to fall out of it and for it to become rubbish. I think it’s fair to say, now that I’ve heard it all, that it certainly doesn’t deserve to poll seven places from the bottom in the Doctor Who Magazine ‘Mighty 200’ survey from a couple of years ago. Let’s make no bones about it: I’ve loved The Underwater Menace.

I think it helps that all the right episodes are missing, and the 50% that I have been able to watch as full episodes is the right half of the story, too. Episode One has to feature the TARDIS materialising on the shores of a volcanic island, and while the tele snaps make it look half-way decent, I think there’s a danger that actually on screen, it may not have fared so well.

Similarly, today’s episode features the destruction of Atlantis, as the ocean breaks through the walls of the city, and rushes in to claim it for the deep. On the soundtrack, it sounds brilliant. The sound of the rushing water is modulated perfectly in every scene, and since I’ve listened to this episode on a train, without the tele snaps in front of me, I’ve been able to imagine it looking pretty good.

There’s a moment when Anneke Wills on the narration describes the giant head of Amdo falling from the wall. In my mind, that looked pretty spectacular crashing into the rising waves. On screen? Well, I’ve yet to look at the images, but I fear it might not have been quite as effective.

It helps, of course, that having seen two episodes, I’ve got a pretty good idea of just how things should look in this final episode. Perhaps the best thing that those two have done for me is working with Troughton’s Doctor. I mused the other day that in my head, all his movements seemed to be based on his appearance in The Three Doctors. That’s no so true, now, and it was very noticeable when he explains his plan to his group of friends.

Again, I’m not going to waste your time by harping on about how great he’s been in this episode, but he’s done it again - knocking it out of the park with his performance. What I will do is draw attention back to Michael Craze as Ben. I spent a lot of time praising him during The War Machines, and while he’s had a lot of nice stuff to do since then, today is the first time that he’s really made me smile. Sneaking the Doctor past a guard, he’s questioned on how they know this is a wanted man. ‘Well blimey,’ Ben replies, ‘Look at him! He ain’t normal, is he?’

This is yet another example of the fantastic dialogue littered through this story, and once again I’ve got notes of seemingly every other line. It’s a real pity that Geoffrey Orme didn’t write another Doctor Who story - I’m crying out for more of his work. Some of the particular highlights from today’s episode include Ben asking the Doctor if he knows what he’s doing (‘Oh, what a question. Of course I don’t’) and the poetic ways in which the destruction of Atlantis get described (‘The everlasting nightmare is here at last’).

And then we’ve got a lovely scene at the very end, with the Doctor and his trio of companions safely back inside the TARDIS, where they tease him about being able to pilot the ship. There’s yet more great dialogue (The Doctor claims that he can steer the ship if he wants to. He’s just never wanted to), and a real sense of bonding between them.

It acts as a nice counter-balance to the start of the story, and it’s the other half of Jamie’s ‘introduction to the TARDIS’ scene. Having the Doctor questioned about how well he can steer the ship seems to have become something of a staple when new companions are introduced. Here, the Doctor decides to take up the challenge, and sets course for Mars. And then the TARDIS goes haywire. How very fitting!

On the whole, I really have loved this story. It’s far, far, better than reputation would suggest, and I’m really hopeful that the recently recovered episode will convince more people to look more favourably on it as a result. Certainly, it’s low standing among fandom currently seems thoroughly undeserved. Plus, now we’ve got half the tale in the archives, surely that makes it a candidate for an animated release?

8/10 0
3 June 2013
8/1 Day 154: The Underwater Menace, Episode Three

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

Day 154: The Underwater Menace, Episode Three

Dear diary,

Nothing in the world can stop The Underwater Menace, now! I have to admit that I wasn’t looking forward to the episode today. Until relatively recently, it was the only episode to have survived from the story, and the one on which much of the negative feeling towards this tale seemed to stem from.

Obviously, today’s episode is home to the moment that most fans know of for this story - the last line, as Joseph Furst’s Professor Zaroff stands tall, centre frame, and shouts ‘Nothing in the world can stop me now!’ (You have no idea how hard it was not to type that in the more traditional ‘Nuffink in ze vorld can schtop me nao!’. Oh dear, I just have). It’s usually held up as a good example of why we should be beating The Underwater Menace with a stick.

What I’ve never known, though, is the context to that line. It comes seconds after Zaroff has shot dead the leader of Atlantis, and ordered his guards to kill two other men (the gunshots are heard, bot those two deaths are off-screen). It’s the ultimate climax to a scene in which Zaroff finds his work threatened, and reacts by taking control of the entire city - making sure that, actually, nothing in the world can stop him now! Except the Doctor, who he knows to be a threat, and Who he knows is still running around somewhere. Slight drawback, that.

I sort of crept into this episode a little, waiting for something, anything, to come along and ruin it for me. Waiting for that moment when the penny would drop and I’d suddenly realise why everyone thought so little of it. If I’m being honest, I don’t think the swimming fish people really do the story any favours. I was surprised, when we first see them in the water, when they’re swimming at the surface being stirred into a revolt, just how good they looked. Some on the rocks, some bobbing in the water… I thought we were going to get away with it.

But then we have to go underwater. I guess the clue was in the title of the story, really. The first thirty seconds o so of this swimming sequence surprised me. It actually looked quite good. Sort of. It certainly looked better than I thought it was going to. The problem is that this scene then goes on. And on. And then, just to make sure, it goes on a little further! Ultimately, there are just too many chances to see the wires - and too many chances where they’re simply too obvious to ignore.

Overall, that entire sequence with the fish people swimming around comes across looking like some kind of strange European film from the silent era. The bizarre soundtrack doesn’t do it any favours, and nor does the fact that I still don’t really know what was going on in that bit of the episode. I was just hoping it would be over quickly so that we could get back to something else. Anything else!

Thankfully, there’s plenty of other stuff to love about this one. The scene in the market is another example of the story going more than a little strange on us, but it leads to the sequence in which the Doctor and his friends kidnap Zaroff - and that has to be one of the best things the series has done in a long time.

From the Doctor gleefully bouncing through the market, calling out Zaroff’s name, to the chase through the tunnels and that final moment when the Doctor blows powder into the Professor’s face… it’s a great scene, and another chance to really showcase Troughton. To be honest, we’re at the point now where I’m not even going to bother praising the man. Just take it as read that I really love him, ok?

What does surprise me about this story, though, is just how quickly Jamie has taken to this business of travelling in time. Just a couple of episodes ago, he was wondering what he’d gotten himself into - coming from four episodes where he didn’t really feature all that much. Now, he’s happy to just get on with things and do what the script requires of him. It’s a bit strange, and I was hoping that we’d see a bit more easing him into things, possibly with Ben acting as a kind of older brother, teaching him the ropes.

As it is, he feels like he’s simply there to fill the generic ‘companion’ role in the script, going off to do what the Doctor asks of him because someone has to. I’m hoping that it might just be a temporary lack of characterisation for him, and that we might see this addressed a little better in the final part, as we move back towards the TARDIS again.

7/10 
3 June 2013
5/10 Doctor Who Online needs you! 

Doctor Who Online needs you! 


In 2009, to celebrate the 200th Doctor Who story (Planet of the Dead), Doctor Who Magazine ran ‘The Mighty 200!’, a survey to find out just where those 200 televised stories sat within fan estimations. That poll led to the Fifth Doctor’s 1984 swan song, The Caves of Androzani being crowned the greatest Doctor Who story ever, with the following story, The Twin Dilemma consigned to the opposite end of the list, coming in as number 200.

 

Since that poll was conducted, however, there’s been almost 40 new adventures for the Time Lord, which has taken us into his Eleventh Incarnation, introduced us to the Ponds, revealed the secrets of River Song, and brought us a whole new universe of terror. Just where do these stories sit within the history of the programme? Are any of them able to displace The Caves of Androzani?

 

What we want you to do is mark each of the Doctor’s televised adventures out of 10, using the form below. A perfect score of ’10’ should really be reserved for the very best of stories - those which you feel are practically perfect. Similarly, a score of ‘1’ should only be given out to those stories which have no redeeming features at all. There’s no limit on how many 10s or 1s you can give, or any of the numbers in between, this is about how much you enjoy these stories. 

 

It doesn’t matter if you’ve not seen all of the Doctor’s televised adventures - just leave blank any that you don’t feel you can rate. The results will be displayed as an average of the scores given, so some of the older stories (which may draw less response than the more recent ones) won’t be losing out unfairly.

 

You’ll notice that we’ve split The Trial of a Time Lord into five separate options, just as the Doctor Who Magazine poll did in 2009. The story was originally broadcast in 1986 as a 14-part epic, and this is how we’d like you to rate it. However, it’s often thought of these days as being a collection of four separate stories with a linking theme, so you’re also welcome to give an individual score for those parts, too. While it will be the main story we use in the final ratings, we'll add in a sidebar with the individual scores for each segment, so you can see how popular (or otherwise!) they are.

 

In a strange twist of events, the 'Mighty 200' poll was conducted when the Tenth Doctor had only two more stories to come at the end of the year, and we'll be conducting our poll under similar conditions - with the final two Eleventh Doctor stories on the horizon! 
 

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!

 

DOWNLOAD THE PDF VOTING FORM

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

top right-hand corner)

 

DOWNLOAD THE JPG VOTING FORM - PAGE ONE and PAGE TWO

 

[Source: Doctor Who Online]

 

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! 
2 June 2013
5/10 Day 153: The Underwater Menace, Episode Two

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

Day 153: The Underwater Menace, Episode Two

Dear diary,

This episode, along with the third part of Galaxy 4 have something of a ‘magical’ feel to them. The thought that they both spent so long sitting in a private collection, while the rest of the world thought them lost makes them seem somehow even more special than any of the regular 1960s episodes that have just always ‘existed’. While the aforementioned Galaxy 4 episode has recently seen release slightly patched up on DVD, this episode has yet to go through any kind of major restoration process, so the occasional break in the footage or dirt on the print really help to add to that feeling of watching something newly recovered.

What’s nice about the timing of the episode’s recovery in relation to this marathon is that this will be one of the first times it’s been reviewed in context of all the other 1960s episodes since its first broadcast, 47 years ago. No pressure there, then!

And, excitingly, it’s the first time I’ve been able to properly watch Troughton moving in the run of The 50 Year Diary! For some reason, since the start of The Power of the Daleks, I’ve been basing all of the Doctor’s movements on the way he behaves in The Three Doctors. To be perfectly honest, I don’t even know why I’m doing that. Maybe it was the last story with Troughton in that I’ve watched? Maybe it’s because he plays his recorder far more in these early stories than in the later ones, and he plays it a fair bit in The Three Doctors, too? Whatever the case may be, that’s the way I’ve been imagining him.

But it’s wonderful to actually see the man. You forget just how much Troughton simply dominates the screen - even when he’s not the main focus of the scene. There’s several moments in this episode where conversations take place between Professor Zaroff and Damon, but all my attention is going on the Doctor in the background, as he fiddles with bits of the set, or looks around pulling funny faces - all totally in character.

Indeed, Troughton is more expressive than Hartnell (and he was pretty expressive himself!), and there are a number of times the camera comes in for a close up on the Doctor’s reaction to really get a point across. The look he gives when breaking the power supply is priceless. Also of note is the little jig - for want of a better word - he does when given some priest clothes. He looks positively thrilled to have been given such an elaborate hat!

I think my favourite moment may be when the Doctor tries to convince Thous, the leader of Atlantis, that Zaroff isn’t quite as sane as they might like. ‘The professor is a wonderful man, a worker of miracles,’ the Doctor explains, calmly. ‘But… have you noticed his eyes lately? When he talks of his project, have you noticed his eyes? They light up like this! The professor is as mad as a hatter!’ As we move through this latter part of the exchange, Troughton makes a point of giving a good, comical, stare. It’s a lovely moment, and one that would be hard to appreciate simply through audio.

The scene between the Doctor and Thous is just one example of the brilliant dialogue on display in the story. As always, the sign of a good episode is that I can’t write my notes quickly enough before there’s something else to jot down - and this episode is a real example of that. From notes on the Doctor trying to explain Zaroff’s insanity in a different way (he knocks on the side of his own head, before dead-panning ‘No answer. Sad’), to mocking Zaroff’s plans to drain the ocean into the Earth’s core (‘Bang!’), The Underwater Menace is a humorous story, and it’s giving me plenty of things to enjoy.

It may not be to everyone’s tastes, and I’m wondering if the level of humour in the story is responsible for that? A couple of months ago, in my preview for Cold War, I described it being ‘a very funny episode’, mostly in relation to David Warner’s character. The first comment the preview generated was someone complaining, sarcastically, that there really wan’t enough humour in the programme at the moment. Any kind of humour in the programme seems to get some fans’ back up.

It doesn’t always work for me - I really didn’t enjoy The Romans, for instance, and that’s considered to be one of the best examples of Doctor Who doing comedy - but in this story, I can’t help but loving the more playful side of the series. The Second Doctor seems to bring a kind of natural humour to everything he touches, so it’s lovely to see it being used so well here.

8/10 
2 June 2013

Doctor Who Online were interviewed on BBC News this morning regarding Matt Smith's departure from Doctor Who.

DWO reporter, Hayden Gribble was asked a series of questions about the recent news that Matt Smith would be leaving the role this Christmas, as well as who could take over the role.

Watch the BBC News Interview with DWO, below:

[Source: Doctor Who Online]

1 June 2013

The BBC has today announced that Matt Smith is to leave Doctor Who after four incredible years on the hit BBC One show.

Matt first stepped into the TARDIS in 2010 and will leave the role at the end of this year after starring in the unmissable 50th Anniversary Special in November and regenerating in the Christmas Special.

During his time as The Doctor, Matt has reached over 30 million unique UK viewers and his incarnation has seen the show go truly global. He was also the first actor to be nominated for a BAFTA in the role.

Matt quickly won over fans to be voted Best Actor by readers of Doctor Who Magazine for the 2010 season. He also received a nod for his first series at the National Television Awards, before winning the Most Popular Male Drama Performance award in 2012.

Matt has played one of the biggest roles in TV with over 77 million fans in the UK, USA and Australia alone!

Matt Smith says:

"Doctor Who has been the most brilliant experience for me as an actor and a bloke, and that largely is down to the cast, crew and fans of the show. I'm incredibly grateful to all the cast and crew who work tirelessly every day, to realise all the elements of the show and deliver Doctor Who to the audience. Many of them have become good friends and I'm incredibly proud of what we have achieved over the last four years.

Having Steven Moffat as show runner write such varied, funny, mind-bending and brilliant scripts has been one of the greatest and most rewarding challenges of my career. It's been a privilege and a treat to work with Steven, he's a good friend and will continue to shape a brilliant world for the Doctor.

The fans of Doctor Who around the world are unlike any other; they dress up, shout louder, know more about the history of the show (and speculate more about the future of the show) in a way that I've never seen before, your dedication is truly remarkable. Thank you so very much for supporting my incarnation of the Time Lord, number Eleven, who I might add is not done yet, I'm back for the 50th anniversary and the Christmas special!

It's been an honour to play this part, to follow the legacy of brilliant actors, and helm the TARDIS for a spell with 'the ginger, the nose and the impossible one'. But when ya gotta go, ya gotta go and Trenzalore calls. Thank you guys. Matt."

Steven Moffat, lead writer and executive producer, says:

"Every day, on every episode, in every set of rushes, Matt Smith surprised me: the way he'd turn a line, or spin on his heels, or make something funny, or out of nowhere make me cry, I just never knew what was coming next. The Doctor can be clown and hero, often at the same time, and Matt rose to both challenges magnificently.

And even better than that, given the pressures of this extraordinary show, he is one of the nicest and hardest-working people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Whatever we threw at him - sometimes literally - his behaviour was always worthy of the Doctor.

But great actors always know when it's time for the curtain call, so this Christmas prepare for your hearts to break, as we say goodbye to number Eleven. Thank you Matt - bow ties were never cooler.

Of course, this isn't the end of the story, because now the search begins. Somewhere out there right now - all unknowing, just going about their business - is someone who's about to become the Doctor. A life is going to change, and Doctor Who will be born all over again! After 50 years, that's still so exciting!"

Jenna Louise Coleman, adds:

"I could not have imagined coming into the show without Matt as my Doctor, holding my hand, really, quite literally. I totally lucked-out in having a creative, generous, clever, and lovely fella to work alongside day after day.

I feel so privileged to have been part of Matt's reign, to have to been companion to what is and what I think always will be one of our greatest Doctors.

He is so in love with the show, he works tirelessly hard, surprises me every day, always creating and discovering something new about the Doctor. A true gent, a leading man and a very special friend.

I know it will be a very difficult goodbye for me, but I for one can't wait to see where his career takes him next.  And of course with the same welcome I was brought in with, I look forward to welcoming the next Doctor. BUT it's not over till it's over. See ya at the big 5-0!"

Having starred alongside three different companions, Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) and most recently Clara Oswald (Jenna Louise Coleman), Matt's Doctor has fought Daleks and Cybermen, as well as Weeping Angels in New York. Regularly heard shouting 'run' and 'Geronimo', through Matt's Doctor fans have been introduced to a new culinary combination - fish fingers and custard!

Matt's spectacular exit is yet to be revealed and will be kept tightly under wraps. He will return to BBC One screens in the unmissable 50th anniversary episode on Saturday 23 November 2013 - TUNE IN!

[Source: BBC Press Office]

1 June 2013
5/10 Day 152: The Underwater Menace, Episode One

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

Day 152: The Underwater Menace, Episode One

Dear diary,

Ah, The Underwater Menace. It’s not got the best reputation in Doctor Who history, has it? In the Doctor Who Magazine ‘Mighty 200’ poll in 2009, it came in at #194, just seven from the bottom of the list. Only The Space Pirates is below it from the 1960s, and The Highlanders came in almost 50 places above it! You’ll forgive me if I tip-toe cautiously into this one…

My concern was pretty short-lived, though - because this first episode is really good! We haven’t had TARDIS crew this story is the largest that we’ve had since Ian and Barbara left in The Chase (yes, yes, we technically had Dodo, Polly, and Ben in The War Machines, but Dodo didn’t do a lot, and the others weren’t abducted until the very end), and there’s a real feel of those early episodes present here.

The first ten minutes of the story feature the Doctor doing some experiments on various rock pools to try and establish where - and when - they’ve landed, while the companions excitedly scramble off to explore. It feels reminiscent of anything from Marco Polo, with Susan’s excitement at finding a giant footprint in the snow, to The Chase, with Vicki and Ian tearing off over the sand dunes like giddy teenagers.

And this foursome are all gelling brilliantly together! Right from the early TARDIS scene, where we hear their thoughts about what they’d like to see next (though I only know it’s their thoughts because I’m sure I’ve read it somewhere - the audio makes it seem like they’re just saying things at random. Prehistoric monsters!). The whole opening, with just the four of them carrying the story is great: it feels like such a long time since we’ve had anything quite like that.

As standard, the introduction of a new companion is used as a chance to reintroduce the series for viewers Who might need a top-up. It’s all done rather in brief here, with the main emphasis being that they can go anywhere and everywhere in the TARDIS, and the Doctor comments ‘that’s the fun!’. Troughton’s Doctor is still winning me over somewhat effortlessly, and he’s as fantastic here as I’ve come to expect. There’s a wonderful moment where he saves a slave girl from a spear and absentmindedly apologises, with a wink to her. It’s such a simple scene, but it really made me smile.

He’s perhaps at his best though, when speaking to Professor Zaroff. The professor’s reputation - much like The Underwater Menace as a whole - isn’t a great one. I fail to see why though, as he’s brilliant here. My favourite moment could be when he muses that he could feed the Doctor to his pet octopus (‘yes?’). I think I’ll be saying that more often when people annoy me. On a related note, does anyone know where I can get a pet octopus? He’s nicely set up in this opening episode as being a great scientist, Who was reported dead about twenty years ago. In reality, he’s relocated himself to this unusual civilisation under the sea - Atlantis.

We also get our first introduction to the fish people, Who are one of the defining images from this story. Now, I’m listening to this episode on audio (with the knowledge of how they look), so I can imagine them swimming around nicely in their farms. There’s a very real chance that it didn’t look that slick on screen. They’re often mocked for their design, and while it’s true that we’ve had better in the series, there’s nothing all that wrong with it, I don’t think.

On the whole, I think I’m just full of praise for this episode. There’s a lot more in my notes that I haven’t even mentioned here (From Polly working out what the date could be based upon the Olympics… Speaking several languages, as Jamie chimes in with Gaelic… The intonation Troughton uses when he describes something as being ‘impossible’, which is almost perfectly copied by Matt Smith when describing Clara in a recent episode… The cliffhanger putting a companion in a kind of danger we’ve not really seen in the show before…), but the gist of it is that I’ve really enjoyed this one.

I think it helps that I’ve come to it from a story that just didn’t click with me. Sometimes simply changing to something different that’s more in tone with what I like in the series is enough to really swing my score around. But now, The Underwater Menace is about to get really fun! We’ve now got two episodes in a row that I can actually watch! With moving pictures and everything! Having come from almost two weeks of solid soundtracks (including one target novel…), actually being able to see moving pictures again fees like something of a miracle…

8/10 
31 May 2013
5/10 Day 151: The Highlanders, Episode Four

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

Day 151: The Highlanders, Episode Four

Dear diary,

Please forgive me. I was weak. The Highlanders wore me down. The thought of having to listen to another 25 minutes of it was honestly too much to bare. I gave in. I cheated. I’ve not actually listened to Episode Four. Well… not properly, anyway.

Y’see, I really couldn’t bare the thought of having to sit through another episode of The Highlanders. I’ve been putting it off all day in the hope that somehow, magically, I’d discover that it was only a three-part story and that I’d have therefore finished it. Unfortunately, as the day wore on, it became increasingly apparent that wasn’t going to happen. Bah. 


Thankfully, I then mentioned it to my good friend Nick Mellish, who sympathised and then commented ‘great novelisation, though…’. That’s when it hit me. There
was a way of finishing this story with as little pain as possible. It just involved the (slightly odd, considering my disdain for it) process of doubling the length of the final episode to just about an hour. I went on a bit of a spending spree on the AudioGo website as I approached the Troughton era, mopping up all the soundtracks that I didn’t yet own. This led to me amassing a number of points on their system, so I traded them in for a download of Anneke Wills reading the Target novelisation of this story.

Yes, yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. No, I’ve not technically listened to Episode Four of The Highlanders. Know what though? I don’t care! Because listening to the Target version of the last episode, I’ve really enjoyed it! Haha! It took a bit of guesswork to work out where I needed to start listening to the audio (which meant I got to hear the novel’s version of the lovely scene between the Doctor and Polly yesterday), and I ended up settling for listening to the cliffhanger from Episode Three again, before moving into the final stretch.

I’m pleased to report that within about ten minutes, I was fully up to speed. There were even things coming through now that I’d missed in earlier episodes and now made sense. I don’t know if it’s the result of swapping formats, or if it’ Anneke Wills’ spirited delivery of the material (the first time she launches into one of Ben’s lines left me wondering if I should laugh or applaud - but it works!), or if it’s just that Episode Four is the best of the serial, but I was actually enjoying The Highlanders.

I can’t tell you how pleased that makes me. I really don’t like not enjoying episodes. I also really don’t like that it often leaves me with little to say here in the diary, because I’m simply not enthused enough to bother. I think the real seal of approval came once I’d reached the end of the reading, and I genuinely considered skipping right back to the beginning to see if I’d enjoy the whole story more listening to it in this way. Ultimately, I decided that was stretching things a little too far, so opted not to. One day, though…

Surprisingly, for the first two thirds of the episode, there’s still no indication that Jamie is going to be anything other than a one-story character. There’s a moment when the text describes the ‘four fugitives’ inside a barn, referring to the Doctor, Polly, Ben, and Kirsty. A few scenes later, when the action relocated back to The Annabel, Polly and Kirsty are carefully rowing a boat around the ship’s hull to smuggle in weapons for rebellion… and Jamie is described as being asleep inside!

It actually feels a little out-of-place when he jumps off the ship and stows away on the smaller boat, only to emerge a little later as a guide for the TARDIS crew. From there, it seems that he’s just caught up in events, and only ends up going along with them because if he remains behind, he’ll be killed pretty fast (which bodes well for The War Games, which drops him back of here and now, with the redcoats advancing!). I know from later stories in this era that Jamie is a great companion, but for now, he just feels a little tacked-on. A real shame, considering the role he’ll be playing for the next two-and-a-half seasons!

On the whole, The Highlanders hasn’t been a high point of the marathon for me. There were moments when I considered just skipping an episode and hoping that none of you would notice. I’m glad that the Target novelisation has been enough to turn things round for me at the very end, though I’m going to be left with a nagging wonder wether I’d have enjoyed the episode so much by continuing with the soundtrack. On the one hand, you’ve got the Doctor reunited with Ben and Polly, and cooking up a scheme, but on the other… the thought of actually listening to it leaves me cold. And a little bit sick. But - hooray! - it’s over, and with it goes the format of the ‘pure’ historical for a good long time, yet.

It’s been an odd path they’ve travelled down since the start of the series - with stories like Marco Polo and The Aztecs serving as early indications that I’d be enjoying these stories. By the time The Reign of Terror rolled around, though, they’d started to leave me cold. With a few notable exceptions (The Gunfighters, I’m looking at you), I’ve sort of had enough of them as a format. Thankfully, Innes Lloyd felt the same way!

6/10 
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