Time Lord Tees

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14 March 2014

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

Day 438: The Brain of Morbius, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I seem to say this a lot, but Tom Baker really is very good at this whole ‘being the Doctor’ thing, isn’t he? There’s so many moments in today’s episode where you simply forget that anyone else can have ever played the part, because it’s just so right for him.

He’s helped by a rather brilliant script - there’s a lot of humour in here. For all the darkness in an episode where Sarah is blinded, the Doctor is very nearly burnt at the stake, and a mad professor has an argument with a brain in a jar, I found myself smiling and laughing right the way through today’s instalment. It’s doing that thing that Doctor Who is so very good at: walking the very fine line between scares and humour, and being throughly entertaining throughout. I’ve enjoyed a lot of episodes over the past few months, but I can’t remember the last time that I had so much fun watching one.

It’s the Doctor who benefits the most from all the joking around in the script, from his ‘confession’ to the sisterhood, through seconding the motion that he be spared from death, and the way he reacts to the TARDIS being moved via mental projection (‘Now, if you were to get yourself a nice little fork lift…’), and Tom also gets a fair amount of physical comedy, too. When Solon emerges from the basement to find the Doctor sitting there, grinning away… it’s impossible not to love it. Solon, too, benefits from the jokes, and his insults towards Condo are as amusing as anything else in the story.

All this humour being injected could run the risk of making the story seem light-hearted or trivial, but Dicks manages to alternate these moment with a fair amount of darkness. The aforementioned argument with Morbius is very well played, and I love that you never see who he’s arguing with, but merely hear the voice as we keep following Solon, letting Philip Madoc’s performance be the sole draw for your eye. Then you’ve got Condo finding out just how little his master cares for him, and threatening to kill him… it’s all quite powerful stuff, and it helps to readdress the balance between light and dark in the story.

It’s also nice to see more and more detail being shaded in about Morbius and his history. I mused yesterday that he was being built up as a kind of mythical figure in Time Lord society, much like Omega or Rassilon, and I still think that’s true, but there’s shades of it bridging the gap more with the version of the Doctor’s race that we’ll be seeing soon enough. Morbius led a rebellion, centring on Karn. He was exiled and disintegrated, and now Solon prepares to revive him to rule once more. Obviously, there’s great big shades of Frankenstein in Solon’s methods, but it’s still interesting enough to watch here.

 

14 March 2014

Further to our recent report about Lego lifting its ban on Doctor Who Lego Cuusoo submissions, one project has now successfully achieved 10,000 votes and entered the review process.

Lego posted an official updated on GlenBricker's project page, stating:

"Congratulations, GlenBricker and Kaminoan on reaching 10,000 supporters on LEGO CUUSOO!

You've presented a very nice TARDIS exterior and interior playset, and an assortment of characters from which to choose. We're looking forward to considering this project in the LEGO Review, but for now excuse us while we go make an electroshock device ... just in case this really IS a Nestene plot to take over the world via a toy factory!

We now officially advance this project to the Review phase.

What happens now?

This project moves from the Idea stage to the Review stage. A "LEGO Review Board" composed of designers, product managers, and other key team members will examine the idea. We'll build concept models and determine if the concept meets our high standards for what it takes to be a LEGO product. This includes factors such as playability, safety, and fit with the LEGO brand. Every potential LEGO product goes through a process like this and must meet the same standards.

The LEGO Review Begins in May

This project qualifies for the Second 2014 Review beginning in May and ending in September. For more information about the LEGO review process, see this knowledge base article.

The review is a thorough process and from its start, and can take several months. When finished, we make a "go/no go" decision to develop and sell a product based on the Doctor Who concept.

When the review is complete, we will inform you of our decision. If green-lit, this project goes into the longest phase of the project; the Development phase. During this time, LEGO model designers refine the product and develop it for release, we create the product materials (box, instructions, marketing), and get everything ready for a production run. This also takes several months."

DWO got in touch with Glen and Jared from the GlenBricker team to discuss their Doctor Who project:

When you first heard about Lego’s plans to open up the Doctor Who projects, what was your first thought and how did you come to settle on the project you submitted?

Glen: Ha..well, I kind of had three thoughts at the same time...kind of Left Brain/Right Brain thinking with the Geeky Brain in the back interrupting...he is always interrupting.

Left Brain: Go talk to JARED RIGHT NOW! Right Brain: You don't have time for this! Geeky Brain: NESTENE PLOT!

When Jared got back with me we were totally in sync on the set.

Jared: Basically we knew we needed a TARDIS, console, and some characters (Both good and bad), I had 2/3rds of the puzzle, Glen had the other 1/3rd 

How did it feel when you found out you had made it to the review stage?

Jared: Excited and nervous, want to know NOW!

Glen: Exhausted...and Groggy,  I tried staying up for it, like New Years Eve, but I fell asleep.  I don't sleep much but I had just finished up at SXSW (http://sxsw.com/) so my body was sore from walking all over the place for five days, lugging a laptop in a backpack...so, I woke up, Laptop right in front of me...as I said, I fell asleep in front of it.  Pressed Refresh and there it was..."Achieved."

It was very exciting, but it is only the starting of the next stage.  Now is the wait, and then the review, and then the reveal.  The real awesome thing though was that I finally felt everything snap...it was kind of like a Regeneration ;).  I had focused so much on this idea and now it was done. 

Sure, I have to write up a few articles on the next stage and what this really means to Doctor Who fans who are not familiar with the Lego Cuusoo Review process.  But I had shelved all these other ideas while working on this singular concept, so it is so rejuvenating to get back to them, let all these Tangents breath: how can I do a Silurian in Lego? a Sontaran?  How do I make Granny Weatherwax's Beehive (http://lego.cuusoo.com/ideas/view/36302).

What would your dream Doctor Who Lego set be?

Jared: I think we all want a themed series, but Cuusoo is simply for a set, so I believe the dream set is much as we pitched to LEGO, A TARDIS (preferably with light and sound, like the one I made, but couldn't show due to Cuusoo restrictions), 2-3 Doctors + 2 companions, Angels, Daleks, Cybermen, and a few other aliens.  LEGO still doesn't want to load up a set with figures at a lower price point, but needs to do so, or needs to have other sets to go along with this one to capture everyone's "Cuusoo" (Wish).

Glen: That is an interesting and very intelligent question.  The easy answer is of course, the one we presented in the project.  But, it is much more complex than that.  When I make Cuusoo projects I try to take my Love of the subject (in this case, Doctor Who) and find where it intersects with the widest audience and thus greatest chance of resulting in actual production.  

It is pretty easy for high-end Lego fans like myself and Jared to recreate what we like most from Dotor Who.  The majority of episodes take place in standard cities,  future environments, and of course quarries,  all of which lend themselves well to Lego. 

There is, however, not that much Lego designed for...well...London Circa 1892...Personally, my ideal Official Doctor Who set would be one based on "The Snowmen."  There are so many great characters in that episode and great visuals.  Plus a carriage.   

A close competitor for it would be one based on "The Girl in the Fireplace."  The story is phenomenal, and again, rare visuals to be had.  There would of course be the fireplace, and those beautifully creepy Clockwork Droids! 

Man, so hard to choose.  I could of course also go for a Tom Baker set like "City of Death."

More news on the review stage as we get it... 

[Sources: DWO; Lego]

14 March 2014

Keeley Hawes will join the cast of Doctor Who, following rave reviews for her outstanding performance as DI Lindsay Denton in the hit BBC drama Line Of Duty.

Starring opposite The Doctor, Hawes will guest star for one episode in Peter Capaldi's first ever series as the Time Lord.

Set to transmit in the autumn this year, Hawes will play Ms Delphox, a powerful out-of-this-world character with a dark secret. Travelling across space and time The Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and his companion, Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), will come face to face with the mysterious Ms Delphox when they arrive on a strange and puzzling planet.

Written by Steve Thompson (Sherlock) the episode will be directed by Douglas Mackinnon (Line Of Duty, Doctor Who).

Commenting on her role, Keeley Hawes, said:

“I am delighted to join Doctor Who and to be working with this incredible team. Ms Delphox is a great character and someone I've had a lot of fun playing.”

While lead writer and executive producer, Steven Moffat, added:

"Anyone watching Jed Mercurio's amazing Line Of Duty will know that Keeley Hawes is having one hell of year. And now it's about to get even better as she achieves the greatest villainy yet attempted on Doctor Who: she plays a banker."

+  Series 8 of Doctor Who will air in August / Early September 2014.

[Source: BBC Media Centre]

13 March 2014

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

Day 437: The Brain of Morbius, Episode One

Dear diary,

The Ark in Space, Genesis of the Daleks, Terror of the Zygons, Pyramids of Mars… People always seem to rate the Hinchcliffe years as being Doctor Who’s finest, and it’s not hard to see why. Every other story is one where I find myself saying ‘this tale is considered to be a real classic’. And here we are again! The Brain of Morbius is another one of those tales that people always speak about with such glowing praise, and another tale that I’ve never seen before.

It certainly gets off to a good start. The opening shot of a Mutt’s hand as it scrabbles up over a rock is lovely, and the lighting throughout this scene is simply gorgeous. The whole scene - and, indeed, the episode as a whole - is dripping with atmosphere, and hooks you in right from the very beginning. That’s always a good sign: if a story starts well, and snaps up my attention quickly enough and firmly enough, then I’m always happy. Things don’t let up from here, though, and once the TARDIS arrives, things get even better.

Over the last few weeks I’ve praised both the way that Tom Baker can play ‘brooding intensity’ and the relationship he has with Elisabeth Sladen, and we get to witness these two areas in action here. The Doctor emerges from the TARDIS shouting to the heavens against the Time Lords (and I love that, though an alternative explanation for their arrival on Karn is offered by Sarah, we’re not actually sure if he’s been directed here by his own people or not), and then goes into a wonderful childish strop. He claims that he’s just going to sit on a nearby rock and play with his yo-yo, but he does it with that wonderful voice of his, so it feels exciting - like the best tantrum ever.

And then Sarah Jane mocks him for it! Sticking out her tongue, making silly noises, and telling him that she’s going off to explore their new surroundings even if he can’t be bothered. It’s lovely, and we really are deep now into the period where these two are best friends. That he jumps up and rushes after her the second she screams is another beautiful touch, and it’s something that he’s seen to do quite often, from Revenge of the Cybermen through Terror of the Zygons… it’s almost becoming a trademark!

As they continue to explore, the Doctor’s more playful side emerges again, and he’s back into his usual fine form by the time they reach Dr Solon’s house on the hill. I love the way he jokes about having several heads, including an ‘old grey model’ before his current one (I love even more the way he jokes that ‘some people liked it’, and Sarah replies ‘I did!’), and the way he flashes his smile all the way through drinks with their host. One of Baker’s finest assets is his ability to switch between serious and smiley in the click of a finger, and all of that is in full display here.

We’re also at a point now where more and more is starting to be added to the legend of the Time Lords. This era of the programme adds more to the Time Lords than any other point in the show’s history, starting really with the story of Omega in The Three Doctors and getting stronger and stronger from there. Season Eleven gives us the name of their planet, events in Season Twelve where they send the Doctor to avert the creation of the Daleks will go on to have much graver consequences in the 21st century series, Pyramids of Mars gives us co-ordinates for the world, then you’ve got Morbius being introduced here, everything during The Deadly Assassin next season, and on to The Invasion of Time after that…

At this stage, they’re still somewhat mythical. During The War Games, they appear as these powerful, God-like beings, but then by the time we reach the Doctor’s description of them to Sarah, they’ve been reduced to ‘galactic ticket inspectors’. Here, they’re seen as almost omnipotent – not responding to the Doctor’s calls at the beginning of the episode, and being involved in a strange deal to share ‘The Elixir of Life’ with the cult-ish Sisterhood on Kern.

The legend of Morbius hasn’t really been fleshed out yet, either, but we know from the Doctor that he wasn’t a particularly nice figure in Time Lord history. I know they’ll be adding more details to this as the story progresses, so I look forward to seeing that happen. From the middle of next season and The Deadly Assassin, they’ll start to lose some of their mystery again, so I’m enjoying these great mythical aspects to their story while I still can…

 

13 March 2014

Fans of Doctor Who are set to find the TARDIS materialising at a new location this Easter as a selection of the Time Lord’s classic adventures in time and space start screening on Horror Channel.

The UK’s prime home for fans of horror, fantasy and sci-fi has completed a deal with BBC Worldwide to broadcast 30 stories from the Classic series which ran 1963 to 1989 featuring the first seven Doctors, starting with William Hartnell and concluding with Sylvester McCoy.

This specially curated season give fans old and new a chance to get re-acquainted with favourite companions Jamie, Jo Grant and Sarah Jane Smith, rogue Time Lords such as The Master, Omega and The Rani and all those iconic monsters including Daleks, Cybermen, Sea Devils and Ice Warriors.

Launching on Friday 18th April (Good Friday) the season begins with the very first story ‘An Unearthly Child’, starring William Hartnell as The Doctor. It then leads into a special WHO ON HORROR weekend - a classic marathon featuring one story from each of the Doctors across the Easter weekend.  There will then be weekday double-bills in daytime and evening slots with stories shown in chronological order starting on Easter Monday 21st April

Horror Channel is screening many of the stories that are regarded as the most memorable that the show produced including ‘The Mind Robber’, ‘The Daemons’, ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’, ‘The Caves of Androzani’, ‘Attack of the Cybermen’ and ‘The Curse of Fenric’. Many emphasise the horror elements of the programme from the first scary moments the Daleks appeared, to encounters with giant spiders and maggots, and even battles with Mary Whitehouse over the violent content of the show during Tom Baker’s era. 

Alina Florea, Director of Programming, said today:

“There are many horror themes that Doctor Who has tackled over the years and people of all ages have been terrified and found cowering behind the sofa. Our selection from the classic series include the original appearances of some of the most revered monsters and TV moments which captured the imagination of children and adults throughout the decades.  Doctor Who is an iconic brand and we are proud and thrilled to welcome this giant of British television to our channel.”

The classic Doctor Who series complements the growing segment of cult television series available on the channel.  Wonder Woman, Xena: Warrior Princess, New Twilight Zone, Star Trek and The Invaders fill the daytime schedule, reflecting the expansion of the channel acquisitions into the fantasy, adventure, and science fiction genres. Doctor Who will have been the first taste of frightening television for many Horror Channel viewers, and following on from the show’s record-breaking 50th anniversary celebrations last year, they will now have the opportunity to relive those terrifying moments and exciting cliff-hangers again.

[Source: Horror Channel]

12 March 2014

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

Day 436: The Android Invasion, Part Four

Dear diary,

Ahhhrg! Roughly translated, that means ‘The Android Invasion is so bloody frustrating that I think I may burst…’ This episode continues in the same style at the previous three - throwing up lots of interesting ideas and a few really brilliant moments, but then managing to undercut them with just a lot of rubbish. I wan’t so desperately to like this story, and I’m always so glad every time I think it’s about to swing round for me, but it just doesn’t work.

Still, let’s be positive to start with. Things I love in this episode… The Doctor is on fine form throughout, and the scene where both the real Doctor and his android double encounter android Benton in quick succession is brilliant. One of those genuinely lath-out-loud moments. As the two Doctors then go on to fight each other on a few occasions, I have to confess that I’m impressed by the direction - it really works. The pod opening behind The Doctor and Sarah as they talk on the rocket, and the duplicate of our hero peers out is wonderfully sinister. Later on, a similar trick in employed by Sarah Jane, when her duplicate sits up from a pod. If anything, that moment is possibly one of Lis Sladen’s best… but then we never see her double again! Where did it go?

Speaking of sudden departures, it’s a good job I was paying attention today because that’s goodbye to Benton, Harry, and UNIT… and they don’t waste any time in giving them a send off! Benton’s final moments see him accepting the Doctor’s orders and heading out of the main control room at the Space Centre… before being seen unconscious a few seconds later, where he’s walked right into an ambush (John Levene continues to play android Benton for the rest of the episode, including the scene I’ve already mentioned where both Doctor’s confuse him, but this is the last sight of the real Benton). Meanwhile Harry gets an equally inglorious send off, being rescued from the rocket by Sarah, and expressing surprise at the fact that he’s got a twin.

The Brigadier - who was clearly supposed to be around in this final episode - has been replaced with a completely new soldier, who speaks lines that would be just right for our regular man-in-charge-of-UNIT. In a funny turn of fate, though, the replacement soldier is played by Patrick Newell, who was also in the episode of The Avengers that I watched yesterday! Small world.

I suppose at the time, they didn’t really know that UNIT wouldn’t be seen again for such a long time. Although Phillip Hinchcliffe was moving the series in a new direction, and Tom Baker wanted to get away from the trappings of his predecessor, I’d imagine they still expected the organisation to crop up from time to time. As it is, we’ll never see Benton or Harry again, and UNIT, save for a brief cameo at the end of this season, won’t be back properly now until Battlefield.

We also say goodbye to Barry Letts with today’s episode, as it’s his last directing work on the series. He’ll be back to oversee things as an executive producer for Season Eighteen, but this is the last time he takes such a direct input to the series. It’s nice to say that the direction has been one of the highlights for the story, and it was only today that I realised both Letts’ first and last direction work for the series feature doubles of the Doctor fighting themselves. In The Enemy of the World, we get to see the Second Doctor fighting against Salamander, while here we’ve got the Doctor vs his android double. It’s not the only connection Letts makes to his first work on the series, either, because Milton Johns turns up in vital roles for both stories.

I’m tempted to say ‘this is the last time Terry Nation writes a non-Dalek story for the programme’, too, but he only does it on two occasions, over a decade apart! Having been an active voice on the writing team for the last few seasons, though, he’ll now be slipping back into the shadows for a while to concentrate on Survivors and Blake’s 7, and we won’t see him again until the Daleks decide to make a reappearance in the Doctor’s life.

On the whole, The Android Invasion is filled with some brilliant ideas, some great concepts, and some wonderful moments… but it just doesn’t quite gel when you put everything together. A real shame, and possibly the biggest ‘blip’ in Season Thirteen’s track record…

 

12 March 2014

Time is running out! This issue will no longer be available from 26th March 2014 so make sure you don’t miss out. From the lavish presentation pack to a beautifully framed set of stamps, the Royal Mail Doctor Who stamp collection offers fans the perfect souvenir of the world’s longest running science fiction series. 

Explore the Doctor Who collection now at Doctor Who Stamps at Royal Mail Shop or call one of the team on 08457 641 641 (+44 131 316 7483 from overseas) who will be more than happy to help. Phone lines are open between the hours of 8.30am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. 

+  Explore the collection now at Doctor Who Stamps at Royal Mail Shop.

[Source: Royal Mail]

11 March 2014

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

Day 435: The Android Invasion, Episode Three

Dear diary,

There’s a few people who I tend to use as a ‘sounding board’ when I’m making my way through the stories for this marathon. It’s usually quite simple – just someone I can talk to about the stories, which tends to help clear my head a bit so that I know what to write about when I sit down to pen the day’s entry. It also serves the useful purpose of giving me extra things to consider, which I may not have thought about myself. When I told my friend Nick the other day that I was now starting out on The Android Invasion, he suggested that I take a look at the production subtitles on this DVD, because they were a particularly good set.

I usually find that I only resort to the Production Notes when I’m particularly bored by a story. Nothing against them as a special feature (they’re often one of the best on every disc), but I find them too distracting when I’m watching a story for the first time. Episodes One and Two of The Android Invasion have had an awful lot to love in them, but they’re not exactly thrilling me as much as I’d like. So, taking on board Nick’s advice, I decided to go back to the menu and switch on the Subtitles before starting out on today’s episode.

It’s ironic, then, that after I’ve spent two days talking about how much this story feels in places like an episode of The Avengers, that the subtitles to this episode should highlight a few episodes from that series which share elements with this story! If nothing else, it’s nice to know that I can pick up on the similarities in style. The main story that’s brought up comes from Season Four of The Avengers, and since it’s not one I’ve seen, I headed straight for the box set and watched it after today’s instalment of Doctor Who. So… now it’s time for something completely different…

Day 435: *The Town of No Return*

This is The Avengers right at the height of its popularity, with arguably the most famous of the teams, Steed and Emma Peel. They take the train out to a small coastal town, where agents have been sent to investigate strange goings on and never returned from. The story isn’t a complete clone of my current Doctor Who tale – the village doesn’t turn out to be a training ground on an alien world, for example – but there are a lot of similarities.

People in the village known to one of your ‘good guys’ who aren’t quite who they seem (indeed, in The Avengers, the people have been replaced with entirely different people taking their place), there’s a hunt out on location with bloodhounds, a character taking a pivotal role in the plot who turns out to be officially ‘dead’, and a sting of slightly unusual mysteries to solve, such as missing parish records for the last 20 years, or the lack of pupils at the school.

There’s even a slightly surreal scene where the ‘new’ versions of people arrive in the town for the first time. In The Android Invasion, a truck rolls up in the village loaded with perfectly still people. For The Town of No Return, a black sack walks out of the ocean, unzips, and a gentleman steps out, strolls across the beach, and greets a watching man. Both are rather brilliant in their own ways, but I think – and this goes for the story as a whole – I prefer this episode of The Avengers to these four episodes of Doctor Who.

It’s possibly helped by the fact that the entire Avengers story is told in 50 minutes, whereas the Doctor’s adventure in Devesham is spread over almost double that time, and the fact that it reminds me so much of a recent story with a similar plot which I’ve seen so recently. Still, all that said, and no matter how much I’ve enjoyed by brief excursion back into the 1960s with this Avengers episode, there’s still plenty that I’m liking about The Android Invasion.

The idea that the village isn’t even on Earth, but rather is a testing ground for a later full-scale invasion really works for me… but I’m not entirely sure why they’ve got copies of Harry, and Benton etc around. I did wonder if it might be to prepare themselves for a confrontation with UNIT (although we’ve only seen the androids working for the Kraals at this stage, presumably they sometimes get set to act simply… ‘normal’?), but then why no Brigadier? And where did they get the plans for them? I’m sure there’s something about them being drawn from people’s memories, which would imply that Crayford has met them before, but… Oh, my head hurts.

And there, you hit the crux of my issue with the story. There’s so many great ideas, but they’re all just out of reach from being brilliant. In many ways, then, it’s the typical Terry Nation of old. Perhaps my biggest issue is the Kraals themselves. I can’t tell if they’re supposed to be ‘funny’ comedy aliens, who are a bit inept and bumbling… or if they’re just really rubbish by accident. It’s been troubling me for a while, now…

 

11 March 2014

Episode #316 of the DWO WhoCast, Doctor Who Podcast is Out Now!

In this week's episode of the DWO WhoCast...

Thomas and Dave look at The Monster Collection books and Thomas has a natter with Stephen Cole, author of Sting Of The Zygons.

Listen to Episode #316 of the DWO WhoCast in the player below:

+ Rate / Review the DWO WhoCast on iTunes!
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Follow the DWO WhoCast on Twitter!
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[Source: DWO]

10 March 2014

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Andrew Smith

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: February 2013

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 10th March 2014

“Space travellers are warned to keep away from the area of the planet Asphya and its unremarkable moon Erys. Not the best place to materialise the TARDIS, then – as the Doctor discovers when his ship is raided by the imp-like Drachee, and his companion Flip is carried away…

But the TARDIS isn’t the only stricken vessel in the region. Aboard a nearby space yacht, the Doctor encounters a woman who holds in her head the secret of Erys – a secret suppressed by amnesia, or worse.

Flip, too, is about to learn Erys’ secret. But once you know Erys’ secret, you can never escape.”

* * *
Andrew Smith and Big Finish are rapidly becoming closely associated with one another, and it is easy enough to see why with a play like The Brood of Erys.  It has a colourful cast with some pleasingly odd voices, a solid pace and ending which sets up things to come, a story which is at once nice and evocative of past stories whilst also being firmly grounded in ‘the now’, and lots of action set pieces which place the companion in the centre of things: DWM would have had a field day drawing Flip plummeting through space back when they used to paint previews of the monthly releases.

Despite all this though, the adventure lacked a certain spark for me.  It’s certainly a world away from the heights of The First Sontarans and the imagination of Vengeance of the Stones, Smith’s contributions to The Lost Stories and Destiny of the Doctors ranges respectively.  Perhaps oddly, given his first script for Big Finish was set in E-Space, this feels more like Full Circle than any of his post-TV scripts have so far.  Now, that’s not a bad thing at all: Full Circle is not a bad story or script at all, and if you ever get the chance to read Smith’s novelisation of it, then I recommend you do so: it’s lovingly written and oozes imagination, wonder at even getting to write it, and genuine enthusiasm.  I had that feeling when listening to The First Sontarans, too, but there was something about The Brood of Erys which missed the spot for me.  Perhaps it’s because a lot of it felt very... familiar.  Not just to other scripts Smith has written, but in general.  It doesn’t break any new ground, and whilst not every Doctor Who script has to of course, it would have been nice to see it done so here all the same.  It feels like there is a better story hidden in there somewhere.

It feels like I am being rather down on The Brood of Erys and I do not wish to be.  There are other stories out there which deserve that sort of derision, and this story most definitely is not one.  Let’s focus on positives instead, namely the leads.  Colin Baker is forever brilliant as The Doctor (twelve times now they’ve cast the lead role - well, thirteen if we want to throw in John Hurt, and seeing how great he was, I reckon we should– and twelve/thirteen times now they’ve got it so very, very right) and here is no exception.  He sounds like he’s having fun throughout, which in turn makes for a more enjoyable listen, even if the material isn’t the greatest he’s ever had.  Likewise, Lisa Greenwood as Flip is strong.  As a companion, I don’t think she’s ever going to make a real dent for me as Flip is a bit too... generic to really do much.  Greenwood, however, is a different story.  As with Baker, you get the sense that she really wants to be there, acting and playing along.  It makes a real difference and helps Flip stand a bit stronger.  She is a far better actor than her character, though.

All the signs are pointing to an end of an era though, not just for the trilogy but in a wider sense, so it’ll be interesting to see what the third main range release of 2014 has in store for The Sixth Doctor and Flip, and whilst this was definitely better than the rather tedious Antidote to Oblivion, which committed the cardinal sin for any Doctor Who story in that it was really rather boring, I hope that it ends with a tale a little less serviceable than The Brood of Erys was at times.  All that said though, a script by Andrew Smith is always well worth listening to, so I do genuinely look forward to what he comes up with next.



Reviewed by: Matthew Davis for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 10th March 2014

After last month’s slightly disappointing Antidote to Oblivion, The Sixth Doctor triliogy picks up with the rather enjoyable The Brood Of Erys.

Andrew Smith is a familiar name to Doctor Who fans having penned the first part of the E-Space Trilogy Full Circle. In The Brood of Erys, Smith deals with some very interesting science fiction ideas but the story towards the end does tend to delve somewhat into sentimentality.

The story deals with the concept of a sentient planet, breeding its own offspring to not only protect it but to follow it’s every command. This is very interesting and is one of the plot lines which keep your attention throughout. The story builds up its mysteries rather strongly throughout the first three episodes but it is only in the last half of episode four that it turns into more of a dysfunctional family drama. I will not give away what happens but for me it was too much of a sudden change of direction in what had been a fascinating and rather dark story.

The cast is one of the strongest aspects of this release with Colin Baker charging full steam ahead in a superb performance as The Doctor. Despite my misgivings about the sentimental ending of the story, Baker brings great subtlety to the dialogue. He truly is a masterful actor, and he has made his Doctor something very special over the years at Big Finish.

Lisa Greenwood gets a lot more to do as Flip in this story, and Greenwood goes for it with gusto. Flip is certainly one of the best foils The Sixth Doctor has had and it remains to be seen if the character’s recklessness in dangerous situations will have dire consequences in the future.

 With a brilliant supporting cast that includes Nicola Sian, better known to us as Clara’s mother and Brian Shelley as Erys, this play has a lot of great talent throughout.

At times comical and serious The Brood of Erys is a very interesting slice of Doctor Who and worth checking out.



10 March 2014

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

Day 434: The Android Invasion, Episode Two

Dear diary,

Oh no. Oh, no, no, no, no, no… I can’t think of anything worse. This may actually be the most nightmarish thing to have ever happened in Doctor Who. People talk about the Hinchcliffe years as being dark, but… this? An entire village, trapped eternally on a single day. July 6th… the day before my birthday. If I lived in Devesham, I’d wake up every singe day, and my birthday would never arrive. Boo. Course, it would also mean that I’d be an android duplicate, having undergone a painful process aboard the spaceship of an evil alien, but still… I’d never get my presents!

The Android Invasion is blowing a bit hot and cold for me at the moment. On the one hand, there’s loads that I’m loving. This episode continues with some of the strange mystery that we started building up in yesterday’s episode, and I’m finding it more and more like something out of The Avengers (the Doctor’s reaction to finding that calendar would surely give us the title of the story, too: The Village Without a Future), and that’s no bad thing. It’s nice, sometimes, to get away from the usual Doctor Who fodder and have something a bit different.

But then, on the other hand, this episode isn’t getting away from being generic Doctor Who at all - in fact, I think it may be the epitome of it in places! What I actually mean is that this story seems to be drawing inspiration in places from the programme’s past. Specifically, the past of just a few stories ago, because there’s an awful lot in here which feels like a sub-par Terror of the Zygons. I don’t know if that’s intentional, or simply a coincidence, but both Terry Nation on writing duties and Barry Letts as director seem to be aping elements of the season opener throughout this episode.

On the writing side, the local pub (well… the local inn) is being used to spy on the operations of the outsiders to the village. In Zygons, the hidden camera was in the eyes of the deer head, whereas here it’s in the centre of the dartboard (it’s a good job the Doctor didn’t damage it with his triple bullseye!). This then sort of leads into the similarities in direction, where a shot of the Doctor looking down the camera lens and being watched on a monitor in the Kraal’s spaceship is almost identical to a shot of Benton doing the same with the Zygon spying device. Then, while I’m glad that they’re trying to conceal the look of the aliens for as long as possible, we seem to follow the same process as in that earlier tale. Our first glimpse is a close up of the face (In Zygons it was a more extreme close up on the eyes, whereas here you get the full face peering through a hole in the cliffhanger to Episode One), this is then followed by a shot of the creature’s hand on the controls of the ship. At least the reveal is done well, again, with the face of the creature appearing as Sarah undergoes her processing.

That’s not to mention the fact that this is a story about a species of aliens we’ve never seen before, who are able to create perfect facsimiles of human characters, and have created a version of Harry who’s hostile towards the Doctor and (especially) Sarah. It’s not just minor similarities - there’s whole ideas which are shared between the two stories. It seems odd that the production team have let this happen so close together (only eight episodes between the end of Zygons and the start of this one), but I wonder if that’s a peculiarity of Zygons being held over from Season Twelve? Had it been shown earlier in the year, as planned, this story may not have come as such a close resemblance.

Of course the big moment today is the cliffhanger. Sarah Jane falls down a slope… and her face falls off! She’s an android! It’s another one of those moments that you just know about when you’re a Doctor Who fan, and I’ve probably seen it a thousand times. But I’d always assumed that it was supposed to be a shock to the viewer more than it actually is. Earlier on in today’s episode, Sarah trips and falls, spraining her ankle. I’d always figured that a similar thing would happen at the end of this episode. She’d stumble, fall to the ground… and then when the face pops off, it’s a huge surprise! I didn’t realise that by the time this cliffhanger rolls around, we’re supposed to know that she’s a duplicate.

I wonder if I prefer the version of events that I’ve had in my head for all these years? By the time of this scene, we know that they’re making android duplicates of people, we know that Sarah has gone through the process, and they’ve laid more enough hints to the fact that this isn’t the real Sarah. It suddenly makes sense of the Doctor’s new obsession with ginger pop (in yesterday’s episode, when he steps out of the TARDIS, offers some to Sarah, and she makes a point of saying how much she hates it I wondered if they were just trying to pad out some time - the whole exchange felt odd!), and seeing Sarah accept it is all the indication we need that she’s not herself.

But then they also add in the fact that she can make a phone call. The Doctor makes a point of checking several phones to make sure we know that they’re not working, and even highlights it as being odd that Sarah can manage to phone in to him. It’s made clear that her story doesn’t quite add up about her escape from the aliens. And then the Doctor’s main deduction is that the duplicate is wearing a scarf… when he’s got Sarah’s scarf in his pocket still from earlier. Actually, that last one is the cleverest idea (and, I have to admit, I didn’t spot it!), but it feels like overkill to add yet another clue.

That said, it’s nice how neatly that ties in. As I say, I didn’t spot the scarf thing, but it’s nicely woven in daly on when the Doctor takes it from her to lead the sniffer dogs off her trail. That chase also gives us a chance to look at the Doctor’s new clothes (the second coat to be introduced in as many stories!), which is quite nice. I much admit that I’d forgotten just how soon this grey coat is introduced. I knew he wore it in this story, and the next, and the one after that, but in my mind I’d never realised just how quickly he started adding these new bits to his costume. To my mind it had always been the corduroy jacket, the brown frock coat introduced in Pyramids of Mars, which then evolved into this one, before heading back to a different brown one, a new grey/beige one for Season Seventeen, and his Season Eighteen look. I rather prefer the way it’s actually turning out, with the Doctor able to swap his coats around on a whim - it gives the impression far more of him choosing clothes as opposed to a costume, and that’s a nice touch.

 

9 March 2014

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

Day 433: The Android Invasion, Episode One

Dear diary,

It’s always a nice transition to go from such an acclaimed story to one which I really have no clue about when it comes to other people’s opinions. I don’t know if I hear so little about The Android Invasion because it’s considered to be a bad story, or if it’s simply by chance. I know about as much about this tale as I did Planet of Evil last week, and that turned out to be a real highlight for me, so fingers crossed…!

If this first episode is anything to go by, I may well have another hidden gem on my hands. Once again, we get to spend a lot of time in the company of just the Doctor and Sarah (Right the way through this marathon, I’d assumed that the ‘Doctor and his companion(s) explore the new location without much interference from guest characters’ was something exclusive to the early years of the programme, but it seem increasingly common at the moment for me to refer back to ‘this thing from the early 1960’s’ cropping up - it seems to be just as common in the mid-70s), and the more time we spend with this pair, the more I can understand the love for them.

It also helps that they’ve got an interesting mystery to solve. It feels more like the plot from an episode of The Avengers than it does one from Doctor Who. An entire town has suddenly become deserted? A soldier throws himself from a cliff top? All the money in his wallet (and in the till of the local pub) is freshly minted? The lanes are patrolled by mysterious figures in a kind of radiation suit who fire bullets from their fingers at anyone who trespasses? Mrs Peel, we’re needed!

The Doctor comes up with quite a good explanation for it all. A radiation leak, meaning that everyone’s been evacuated in a hurry. Makes sense. The soldier could be infected, meaning he’s not of sound mind. Makes sense. All the money has to be changed because of the high radiation levels in the area naturally, so it can’t be allowed to circulate far. Makes sense. And yet, it’s interesting to watch the deduction while knowing that he’s completely wrong. I don’t know a great deal about the plot to this story, but what little I do know tells me that it’s got something to do with androids (the clue’s in the title), and they don’t feature in the Doctor’s analysis.

But just when you start to think he’s piecing together a coherent explanation for everything, they go and make it even more mysterious, by bringing in a group of people to populate the pub with. There’s something eerie about the way they all come in silently and resume their positions (it’s a shame that one extra is forced to move his chair to sit down - there’s something creepier about the people before him who just slide down into their pre-placed seats), and when Sarah bursts into the room and they all turn to stare at her with a look of anger… oh, yes, it’s all very effective.

So it’s almost a shame when we follow the Doctor off to the Space Centre, and we’re caught up in boring old action sequences. Chasing, evading, running around… even Tom Baker flipping over a desk can’t make this part of the story as interesting as that initial mystery. It’s telling, perhaps, that all my notes for today’s episode end with Sarah at the pub. After that, I’m just not as engaged.

Something I did notice, and it’s been brought up in a few other recent stories, too, is the fact that Sarah doesn’t seem to have her own TARDIS key. We’re only a few stories away from the Doctor’s claim that she’s his ‘best friend’, and they’ve been travelling together for absolutely ages now, so it does seem a little odd that she’s not allowed her own access to the ship. But then she goes and does something silly, like put the key in the lock and wanter away from it! No wonder the TARDIS has taken off of its own accord - it’s probably trying to teach her a lesson!

 

9 March 2014

The man who put The Doctor aboard a cursed pirate ship and took us to parts of the TARDIS we’d never seen before has been confirmed as a writer on the forthcoming 8th series of Doctor Who.

Steve Thompson will write the as-yet-unnamed fifth episode of the series to be shown later this year (which DWO believe *could* be titled Time Heist).

It’s the third time the writer has penned a Doctor Who story, following last year’s Journey To The Centre of the TARDIS and 2011’s pirate adventure The Curse of the Black Spot.

Steve Thompson has also provided scripts for BBC1’s Sherlock such as The Blind Banker, series two finale The Reichenbach Fall and The Sign of Three which was broadcast in January.

Filming is underway on Peter Capaldi’s first series as The Doctor. He’ll be joined by Jenna Coleman as Clara and a new recurring character, Danny Pink played by Samuel Anderson

The new series, to be screened on BBC1, will also feature episodes by lead writer and series producer Steven Moffat.

+  Series 8 of Doctor Who will air in August / Early September 2014.

[Source: BBC Doctor Who Website]

8 March 2014

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

Day 432: Pyramids of Mars, Episode Four

Dear diary,

I think the issue that I’m having with this story is that I don’t really believe in Sutekh’s power. Ever since the Doctor realised what they’re fighting against, he’s spent time telling us how many millions will die if they don’t succeed in stopping this ancient god. We see the future, ravaged and destroyed. Five men are already dead - some quite brutally killed - and they’re only the first of millions once Sutekh has broken free of his restraints. But that’s all we get - a lot of talk about the fact that he’s all-powerful, and that he leaves desolation in his wake. Because he doesn’t get to stand up until the end of this episode, and then finds himself immediately trapped in a time corridor, the threat of this creature feels less potent than, say, the anti-matter force from the last story. Or the Daleks last season. Or… well, you get the picture.

It’s a pity, really, because the opening few minutes of today’s episode consists almost exclusively of the Doctor being tortured by Sutekh’s mental powers. In some ways, these scenes are the ones which come closest to showing you just how powerful this god really is, because he’s reduced our hero to being his plaything, but they feel as though they’re lacking impact having come after Planet of the Spiders. The mental torture inflicted on the Doctor here is far greater than the ‘walking round in circles’ that the Great One caused, but it’s less shocking because we’ve already had that earlier example.

The one thing that really does work for me about Sutekh, though, is his voice. I remember there being quite a bit of excitement back in 2006 when it was announced that Gabriel Woolf would be returning to the world of Doctor Who to voice the creature in The Satan Pit, and I can see now why people were so thrilled. He manages a tone that is at once scary and playful, and the way he laughs as he speaks some of the lines can be genuinely chilling. It’s by far the best thing about the entire story, but it still doesn’t really make me fear him.

Even when - following the Doctor’s protests that he will never help the god - Sutekh takes control of the Doctor’s mind and starts using him as a puppet, I just don’t believe it. I don’t know if it’s something in Baker’s performance, or if it’s just the way that I’m reading into the events, but I was convinced that the Doctor was faking possession. I kept waiting for him to turn to Sarah and give her a wink, a signal to both her and us that things were really ok. After a while, it turns out that - no - he wan’t faking it, and he really was under the control of an outside influence, a puppet for Sutekh… but it comes too late!

Oh, I know, I’m simply having a moan. I think this is another one of those instances, like The Evil of the Daleks, where I’m looking at a story’s high standing within fandom and thinking ‘go on, then. Impress me…’ There’s lots to love about this story, but I just can’t understand why it’s quite so loved. At times, today’s episode feels a bit like a rehash of Death to the Daleks, with logic puzzles standing between the Doctor and his goal (even Sarah comments that it reminds her of the city on Exxilon. A lovely, and unexpected, surprise… although Sarah didn’t actually get to go in to the city. Presumably, the Doctor must have told her all about it…), but at least they’re livened up with some funky moving backgrounds throughout the set.

On the whole, I think the story just lost some of the atmosphere once the action was shifted mainly to Mars. Suddenly, that great mansion set, or the woodlands, was gone and replaced with a fairly generic location for the final showdown. Although the moving segments are a nice idea, they don’t always work well, so I found them more distracting than anything. I think, no matter how I try, I’m just not going to get the love for this one. A good story? Yes, undoubtably. A great story? Not for me, I’m afraid.

 

7 March 2014

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

Day 431: Pyramids of Mars, Episode Three

Dear diary,

Whenever we have a historical story, I always catch myself being terribly nice about the set design, and quite often the location work, too, but I rarely seem to talk all that much about the costumes. I think this is a fitting place to do so, because all the outfits in this particular story are fantastic. Elisabeth Sladen really suits the white dress she wears (and it’s a marked change from the type of outfit that Sarah was wearing in the programme for the last few seasons. I hate to use an anecdote from Sladen’s autobiography again, but she talks of loosening up Sarah’s wardrobe the longer she travels with the Doctor, and you can clearly see that in motion here), the fact that it’s mentioned as having been Victoria’s is a nice little nod to the past, too.

Then you’ve got the Scarman brothers. Marcus’ outfit is interesting enough without being too overbearing, but it’s Lawrence’s togs which appeal the most to me. I think most Doctor Who fans have their own ‘Doctor outfit’ - the type of clothes you would wear if you were the Doctor. I think Lawrence’s ones here are pretty much my ideal costume. Indeed, I own a similar three-piece suit (though in a more modern cut, and with a smaller pattern), so there’s no wonder that I’m so keen on his style!

And then you’ve got the real Doctor’s outfit. It’s been evolving for a little while, now, and we’ve settled on the look that - in various guises - will define much of the programme’s next five years. The hat, the scarf, the frock coat, the waistcoat, the ‘chequered’ trousers… There’s a moment in today’s episode, when the Doctor rounds a corner and we see a full-length shot of him and all I could think was how close it looked to the action figure of the Doctor from this story! It seems obvious (this is the tale they based it on, so it would look similar), but it’s a spot on capture of this costume that they’ve produced. In terms of the figures, this was always my favourite version of Tom, but often alternated with the Season 18 variant on the shelf when I couldn’t make my mind up! I think that all things considered, this is my favourite look for the Fourth Doctor - he just fits the style so well.

We’re also seeing just how different this incarnation of the Doctor can be from his predecessors. People talk of Tom Baker as being the first actor who really understood how alien the Doctor was, and it’s perfectly showcased today with his utter lack of concern for the dead Lawrence Scarman. Early in the story, once they’ve escaped the mummy attack he asks if the man is ok. Receiving a positive answer, he barks ‘You don’t deserve to be! You nearly got us all killed!’ It’s not a line that I can imagine as being unique to Tom’s Doctor (I can picture Pertwee saying something similar, and probably Hartnell, too), but the delivery only carries the weight like this when it comes from Tom Baker’s mouth. And then you’ve got a later exchange between the Doctor and Sarah, once they’ve found the man dead:

SARAH
He was so concerned about his brother…

THE DOCTOR
Well I told him not to be. I told him it was too late.

SARAH
Oh! Sometimes you don’t seem… (she catches the next word in her throat, but the Doctor finishes the sentence for her anyway.)

THE DOCTOR
…Human?

From there, he just carries on with his deductions of what’s happening. Sarah tries to protest that a man has just been murdered, but the Doctor simply replies that four men have been killed. Five, if you include Professor Scarman himself. It’s wonderful to see the Doctor as detached as this, and it really does serve as a reminder that he’s not like us. He sees death all the time, so this is just another corpse to him. Even with everything else that the Doctor has had to do through this story, all the fun and laughing with his companion that I love so much, I think this may be his best moment of the story.

I told myself that I’d try not to mention the sets in this story all that much, which is one of the reasons that I’ve chosen to look at the costumes above. That said, I do need to draw attention to one of the set dressings - the Osirian rocket. It looks massive in the courtyard, which really helps to make the whole thing look impressive. I knew that it took this form somewhere in the story (again, from the action figures. I don’t own the set, but one of the Pyramids of Mars releases comes with a model of this missile), but I had no idea that it was so large! When it blows up at the end, the effect if pretty impressive, too. According to the ‘Now and Then’ feature on this DVD, the prop was given to a local school to keep once it was finished for filming… how come nothing that exciting ever happened in my schooldays?

 

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