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12 November 2014

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

Day 681: The Ultimate Foe, Episode Two (The Trial of a Time Lord, Episode Fourteen)

Dear diary,

The problem with doing an epic, 14-part Doctor Who story is that the payoff in the final episode has to be worth paying attention to the preceding weeks. You have to feel as though you've been given adequate entertainment for the time that you've invested in the programme. The problem with this episode in particular, is that it's possibly got the most tortured journey to screen of any episode the programme has ever produced. Forget your Shadas , your Greatest Shows and your TV Movies, they're still in the nursery compared to The Ultimate Foe. Originally scheduled to be written by Robert Holmes, tying up all the elements he started putting in place at the start of this season, it ended up being taken over by Eric Saward when Holmes fell ill and later died. While all of this was going on, Saward and John Nathan-Turner finally came to the end of the road, and Saward left the programme, refusing permission to use the completed script. Ultimately, writing duties were taken over by Pip and Jane Baker, who JN-T felt could provide an adequate episode on time and using sets, actors, and costumes already budgeted for and contracted.

Now, I'm not going to go out and claim that this is a fantastic episode - because it isn't. I am, however, going to claim that it's not a bad one. It's not even the worst episode of the season, as far as I'm concerned, and there's an awful lot crammed in to this episode that I know would have entertained me as a child watching at the time. There's so much in there, that the episode is actually extended from the usual length, to create thirty-minute extravaganza! I'm not going to go in to detail about everything that I've enjoyed here, but in brief; the cliffhanger to yesterday's episode is fantastic, and the resolution here as the Doctor emerges clean from the sand is equally good. The exploding quills. The interaction between the Master and Sabalom Glitz. The fake trial. Even the often ridiculous dialogue has been rather fun, and I can't help saying 'There's nothing you can do to prevent the catharsis of spurious morality' to myself, and I'd imagine it's something that I'll be doing for a while, yet!

I will say that you can tell the difference here between the half of the story written by Robert Holmes - yesterday's episode - and this one. I think being out on the same locations and with the same characters makes it more apparent than it would normally be going from story to story, with completely different settings and different casts. Yesterday's episode was filled with an awful lot of bokum, but today's episode suddenly has people talking as though they're in a science fiction programme - it's especially noticeable with the Doctor during all the beach scenes, because he's not talking properly any more. Don't get me wrong, it sounds perfectly fine coming from the Doctor's mouth (and this Doctor, in particular), but it's not as natural as the lines Holmes gave him.

On the whole, I've rather enjoyed the Trial of a Time Lord season. I won't go in to great detail about the way the story has come out ratings-wise, because we're at the end of another era, and I'll be doing that in my Sixth Doctor Overview post, which will be a post above this one of the Doctor Who Online news page. I will say, however, that I'm not against the idea of the trial format as I know some people are. It doesn't work quite as well as the production team think it does, and I have a feeling that it's largely down to the three main bits of 'evidence' not really filling the roles they're supposed to properly. The concept is a rather good one, but the execution has left a little to be desired, I think. The programme has returned from an 18-month break with a good series, largely, and I think I would have enjoyed it as a kid on first broadcast. It's been bright and colourful, with a Doctor who can be taken to much easier than last year. I don't think I could have asked for much more!

12 November 2014

The BBC have been in touch with DWO with the first official promo image for the 2014 Doctor Who Christmas Special.

The image, which you can see in the right-hand-column, features The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Santa Claus (Nick Frost).

They also gave us some information about a special preview for the special, which will form part of this Friday's Children In Need TV programming on BBC One.

Viewers will be able to tune in from 7:30pm to watch the preview.

Check out the trailer out in the player, below:

+  The Doctor Who Christmas Special will air on Christmas Day, Time TBC, on BBC One.
+  Donate to Children In Need, here

[Source: BBC]

11 November 2014

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

Day 680: The Ultimate Foe, Episode One (The Trial of a Time Lord, Episode Thirteen)

Dear diary,

I don't think I've ever really understood the Matrix in Doctor Who. It seems to be too many different things all at once. It's a whole pocket universe. It's a virtual reality. It's the place where Time Lord consciousness is uploaded when they die. It's a communications network. For the last twelve days, it's been a DVD collection of the Doctor's adventures. In The Deadly Assassin and in this story, it's playing the part of a virtual reality that can be bent to the will of the strongest inhabitant… I just get lost in trying to keep up with it. Today adds an additional complication in that not everything is an illusion in the way the Doctor expects it to be - somethings, like the harpoon thrown at Glitz, are decidedly real!

I'm also confused about the way that you actually enter the Matrix. In this episode, we're introduced to 'the Keeper', who announces that you can only enter the Matrix with the Key of Rassilon, which is always kept in his possession (unlike the Key of Rassilon which featured in The Invasion of Time). He says that people are very rarely allowed to enter the Matrix, and it happens perhaps once a millennia with him blessing and the key. And yet, in The Deadly Assassin, the Doctor simply needed to be wired to a machine to enter the realm, as did Goth, whose equipment wasn't exactly up-to-scratch! We then enter the Matrix here through the 'Seventh Door', which happens to be on this space station (that I can buy, the High Council would have ensured it).

What's lost me about all this is… did the Valeyard actively go in to the Matrix to alter all the footage we've been watching? While the Doctor was off reviewing the events of Terror of the Vervoids, was the Valeyard skulking around in a Matrix-version of the Hyperion III, altering events behind the Doctor? And if you only need someone to physically enter the Matrix once every thousand years or so, then why do you need to have a minimum of seven doors? Surely that's just Inviting a leak of the contents?

Then we've got the revelation that the secrets Glitz was hunting in The Mysterious Planet were leaked scientific advancements from the Matrix itself. Right. Okay. So now, the Matrix is also a Dropbox file, where the Time Lords can store all their scientific information, when they're not slipping in to the pocket dimension to play a game of cat-and-mouse? Please tell me that I'm not the only one who can't quite wrap my head around all of this?

All that said, I do like the idea that Glitz is trading in Gallifreyan secrets. There's something about it which feels again as though it could fit quite neatly in to my vision of the Time War drawing closer, with the Daleks trying to hack in to the Time Lord's great big databank, and the 'lesser species' all flocking to the breach to try and swipe some of the secrets for themselves. I've mentioned before how much I enjoy these odd little hints of Gallifreyan mythology to seep in from time to time, and this is a perfect example. I also love that the current High Council is so utterly corrupt, and that they'd made a deal with the Valeyard to set up this whole trial, and to use the Doctor as a bit of a scapegoat.

It then raises the interesting question of which High Council this may be. Is it the current one, back on Gallifrey? I'm almost tempted to think of it as being a future High Council (possibly even the one we see in The End of Time, headed by Rassilon himself?), who have opted to come back in time and put the Doctor on trial in this particular incarnation because he's a) the most violent of all the Doctors up to the point where the Time War kicks off, and b) the next Doctor is the one who helps to kick it all off, when he blows up Skaro! There may be a bit of fudging to be done in the next episode, but I think it's a theory which can just about hang together, so I think I'll be accepting it into my own 'head canon' from now on!

Today is probably the best moment to actually discuss the Valeyard, too. There's been lots of talk about him within fandom in the last year or so, with it being revealed that the Matt Smith incarnation of the Doctor is the final one in his current life-cycle. The general topic that keeps being raised is that we should have therefore seen the Valeyard come in to being when David Tennant became Matt Smith, with some people actively suggesting that the Meta-crisis Doctor could well be the birth of the Valeyard, because it fits in with the timeline. Actually, it's simply that these people aren't listening to what's said in this episode! I saw lots of complaining that the Valeyard is supposed to appear between the Doctor's twelfth and thirteenth incarnations, but that's not what the Master actually says - he specifically describes it as being between the Doctor's 'twelfth and final' incarnations. Now, at the time, this was intended to mean between twelve and thirteen, but in hindsight, not knowing that the Doctor's life has been extended with a new regeneration cycle, it opens up one or two more interesting possibilities. For what it's worth, I don't think that we'll ever see the Valeyard in the programme again, but I don't think we've missed the boat recently in the way that some people seem to claim!

I really do love the way that the revelation of the Valeyard's origins comes about, too. It's not made a bit thing of, there's not massive reveal, it's simply slipped out in the middle of the Master's sentence, and then he carries on talking. That works so beautifully, because it leaves you almost not listening to the rest of the conversation - you're too busy trying to work out if you've understood what was said properly or not. The Doctor then picks up on it a moment later to help confirm your suspicions. It's very cleverly done, and I'm glad that in his final episode, Robert Holmes could slip in something as beautifully executed as that.

The Doctor himself is on fine form again today. During The Mysterious Planet, I picked out his speech about stars dying as a real highlight moment of his era, and I think that we've got another one today. It comes as he decrees the assembled Time Lords in the courtroom for their part in events on Ravalox;


In all my travellings throughout the universe I have battled against evil, against power-mad conspirators. I should have stayed here. The oldest civilisation, decadent, degenerate and rotten to the core. Ha! Power-mad conspirators, Daleks, Sontarans, Cybermen, they're still in the nursery compared to us. Ten million years of absolute power, that's what it takes to be really corrupt.

It's such a grand speech, and it works especially well for this most grandiose of Doctors - I think a few of the earlier incarnations could have pulled it off (Pertwee and Tom Baker especially), but it seems very fitting for the Sixth Doctor, and it gives Colin one more chance to shine before he bows out tomorrow…

10 November 2014

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

Day 679: Terror of the Vervoids, Episode Four (The Trial of a Time Lord, Episode Twelve)

Dear diary,

I'm sorry, but the Doctor deserves to lose the trial after that, I'm afraid. What on earth was he thinking, showing Terror of the Vervoids in his defence? I mean, sure, the Matrix has been tampered with to make him look even more guilty, but it's still a story in which the bodies pile up (am I right in thinking that there's only about two characters left alive at the end?), and he does finish up by committing genocide! I can take his point about not letting a single Vervoid leaf touch the soil of a planet, but surely he must have realised how that might look to a court who suspect him of being a violent meddler, and when he's facing down a prosecutor who will turn anything against him? I mean.. come on!

He seems to have two arguments about this adventure - that he becomes a better person in the future (and, in fairness, he's a lot more like the traditional 'Doctor' in this story than he was through Season Twenty-Two), and that he was specifically summoned to the Hyperion III, and asked to help. Well, right, okay, I can sort of see the argument he's making with that last one, but surely there must be another example of him being specifically asked to help with something, if that's enough to get him off these charges? Why not show one of the many times that the Time Lords have swanned in an asked him to go and meddle? Or - even better - the time that the White Guardian - a being whose authority exceeds the Time Lords - chose him to undertake the most dangerous mission in the universe, because he was deemed to be the most capable? It just seems like he's really not doing himself any favours by choosing this particular story in his favour, and I'm actually a bit annoyed about that! It would have worked better if the Doctor had been shown this evidence by the Valeyard - an example that if he's left unchecked, then in the future he will go so far as to commit genocide!

You can probably tell that this has wound me up a bit. It just seems so stupid of the Doctor to have chosen this one to show in his favour, and then seem so pleased about it! If the charge here is that he's been meddling in the affairs of other planets, then surely this isn't the best example of showing that you don't always do that! I think he's trying to make the same argument that he did in The War Games - that sometimes getting stuck in and fighting for the side of 'good' is better than standing by and letting evil take control - but he's not actually said anything along those lines yet! It's simply the only way I can make sense of what he's thinking with these four episodes!

Oh, but that's only one side of it, and I have to admit that I've enjoyed Terror of the Vervoids on the whole. I think that stripped from its Trial of a Time Lord trappings (and despite what I said the other day, I think it actually could be done - I suppose we don't need to see who destroyed the communications room, only that it is destroyed when Mel and co enter to send a message), this could be a fairly nice little story, probably condensed down to three episodes once all the courtroom stuff has been removed. I'm assuming that someone has tried this type of edit before? Surely? The only real problem that I can foresee is that the Doctor explains how he knows one of the Mogarians isn't real in the trial, but otherwise…

And now we're off on to the final couple of Sixth Doctor episodes! It does seem to have come around ever so quickly this season - even though we're an episode longer than we were for Season Twenty-Two, you really do feel the fact that the episodes are back down to the regular 23 minute length. I vaguely recall the ending of Trial not making a great deal of sense when I watched it before - much like the whole Matrix sequence of The Deadly Assassin, I suppose - so here's hoping that it stands up better this time, because I'd dearly love to see Colin go out of the programme on a high…

9 November 2014

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

Day 678: Terror of the Vervoids, Episode Three (The Trial of a Time Lord, Episode Eleven)

Dear diary,

I'm a little bit disappointed with the actual Vervoid creatures in this one. The tension and menace was effectively built up over the first two episodes, but now that the killer plants are awake and carrying out their own nefarious schemes, they're just a bit rubbish, aren't they? I mean, there's lots about them that should be interesting to me (an especially so to a young audience) - they've got the ability to poison you, they can fire a noxious gas from their 'mouths', and they're humanoid plants! It's a concept that the programme has been playing with since right back in the 1960s, and has already done very well in The Seeds of Doom, but here it's just being done so poorly.

It all starts from the moment we first hear one of the creatures speak. It's a low, rasping, whispery voice, the kind that has previously been so effective for the Ice Warriors and the Zygons, but here it's being applied to such mundane dialogue. The first line we hear a Vervoid say is 'help me with this', as he drags a body! It's hardly the most menacing thing to ever come out of a monster's mouth in Doctor Who! Later on, they also get such stand-out lines as ''congratulations must be delayed', and they get to stand around discussing their plans like… well, like any other bargain-basement monster. We've spent two episodes building up to the reveal of these creatures, and two very good cliffhangers that has led to them, and they just mill around as though they've something better to do. It's a massive anti-climax, and I can't help but feel a little annoyed by it.

As for the design of the Vervoids… it's something of a long-standing joke in Doctor Who fandom that they look a little bit like genitalia, but that no one can ever decide which bit! Again, on paper they should be quite a good concept - humanoid plants which are more humanoid than either the Krynoids of the Varga Plants - but they just come across looking like actors stuck in somewhat ill-designed monster costumes. I don't think it's helped by the fact that they're being given so little of interest to do, so you spend more time than you perhaps should looking at the costumes and spotting the flaws!

There's so much potential for a tight, tension-filled mystery here, with a finite number of characters all trapped together in a confined space as they start to get bumped off one-by-one, starting - it seems - with an investigator… there's amoral experiments, and killer plants, and as if all that wasn't exciting enough, the space ship is now being plunged right into the jaws of a black hole! All the ingredients are here for a great story, but they just aren't hanging together for me.

People have often said that this is the segment of the Trial season which would work the best being completely stripped of the courtroom segments, but I'm honestly not sure how it would work. I do think that they'e becoming boring and repetitive again (there's one today which seems to be there purely to remind us that Michael Jayston and Lynda Bellingman have been contracted for 14 weeks), but at the same time, there's a few which are absolutely vital. We've gone beyond simply having the Doctor claim that things have been 'tweaked' slightly to alter the facts, and we've got him reacting today to a whole scene - himself destroying the communications array - which he claims never happened. With so much in this story possibly not being quite as it seems, would it be all that feasible to do a re-edit?

9 November 2014

On Tuesday, DWO attended a screening of Death in Heaven in Cardiff, which was followed by a Q&A session with Doctor Who Showrunner Steven Moffatt, Executive producer Brian Minchin, and Visual Effects Supremo Will Cohen. During the course of the chat, the trio reflected on the making of Season Eight, discussed the epic season finale, and even started to look toward the future… 


Doctor Who is a very emotional show. Do you focus on that when writing? What’s at the forefront of your mind when creating an episode?


Steven Moffatt: To try and make sure that nobody’s talking about watching anything else! You need to find an emotional through line to very story, because everything else about Doctor Who is so mad. It’s all monsters, and CGI, and explosions, and running. Nothing wrong with any of those things, they’re all my favourites, but you also need for it to be about something, and that I think is what makes it work.


What made you turn the Master in to a woman?


SM: I’d never written a Master story, and there had been a number of Masters in the show from the amazing Roger Delgado through to John Simm, and I could never think of a way to do it which was interesting.


And then I thought, if you could smuggle her in to the show in plain sight and then land that one… and then once and for all absolutely establish in plain sight, so nobody has any doubt about this whatsoever: yes, Time Lords can do that… it just expands the show a little bit.


You get old time fans saying ‘no! You’re not allowed to do that…!’


And what about Disney fans? She’s Mary Poppins!


SM: Mary Poppins has always been evil!


I don’t know why. To be honest, it was a gimmick at the start - there’s nothing wrong with a gimmick - and I was really fiddling with how on Earth I was going to write it. 


Michelle Gomez was on the list for a different part, and she’d been offered another part but couldn’t do it. But then I thought ‘Oh my God, that’s it!’ Michelle is so genuinely barking… I thought there’s never going to be a dull moment on screen! I’ve known Michelle for a long time, because she was married to Jack Davenport who had done Coupling. So I’d known her, I’ve gotten drunk with her, and she actually is like [she is on screen]. That’s toning it down.


So is the Master gone now?


SM: Yes


I was delighted back when the wonderful Anthony Ainley was the Master back with Peter Davison, and he would definitively get fried, or incinerated, or destroyed at the end of each story… and he’d turn up at the beginning of the next one and basically say ‘I escaped’. I had no problem with that! 


So… observe how I’ve avoided your question! What are the chances?


This is the first time that the Master has worked with the Cybermen…


SM: Oh, but the Master has met the Cybermen before. Would you like me to list them?


But why the idea to team them up?


I’ve never written a Cyberman one, and when I was a kid, I absolutely loved the Cybermen. They were my favourite. I mean, the Daleks were really my favourite, but I pretended that the Cybermen were my favourite to make myself more interesting. Which absolutely doesn’t work.


I’d always wanted to make them creepy and scary. I was aware that there is kind of a problem that the Cybermen are brilliant at standing there, and brilliant at breaking out of tombs, fantastic at breaking out of tombs - they’ve been doing that since 1967 - but when they stand up and actually arrive… they’ve a monotone voice, no facial expressions, and no emotions. That can be tricky. You sort of want to put them with somebody who can be the interface. But I love Cybermen. 


I don’t even know why they’re great. The absolutely indispensable part of the Cybermen is that they’ve got handles there… I mean the idea of removing them would be heresy… But what are they for


But I do adore them. Especially an old show called The Tomb of the Cybermen, which I’ve ripped off many times, it’s just perfect Doctor Who. Glorious Doctor Who


If you bring the Rani back, would she be a man?


SM: What, still? I don’t know! I’ve never been quite sure if outside of the circle of Doctor Who fans, if she’s really a character that people know about. I don’t know. I don’t think that people who have real lives - not like us - would really recognise that character. The Master, everyone seems to know about the Master, but I’m never quite sure about the Rani. But… I could just be bulls******g! I said I wasn’t bringing back the Master right at the start of this series - just a straightforward lie! But it’s a good idea… the Rani as a man is quite…!


In this season, you really explore who the Doctor is. Was that part of the reaction to bringing in a new actor to the role?


SM: Well, it was sort of two things. I thought it was time to do that. Before we discussed who was going to be the new Doctor, I was thinking ‘it’s getting all a bit cosy’. The Doctor is a reliable hero, and he’ll turn up and be fantastic. Matt Smith was incredible at doing that, but I thought it was a bit cosy and reliable. So, the reason that I did what I did in Matt’s last episode - to trap him on a planet for a thousand years, and remind him that everybody else will die around him, he’s not anybody’s boyfriend, he’s not really one of their playmates, he’s something else entirely - meant that you could go somewhere else with it.


From the Doctor’s point of view, he’s had a long break in his travels. If you asked him… I think he’d be quite surprised to discover that there’s an early Saturday evening adventure serial about him. I suppose that would come as a shock to anyone. But he doesn’t think of himself as a hero, you’ve got to give him something to play.


He’s great, as Peter has started doing, turning and looming into the camera for a ‘hero reveal’, and if you’ve got actors as the Doctor of the calibre that we’ve had since the very beginning of the show, then you’ve got to give them something to play. Not just falling out of planes… though that’s good too…


What does it feel like to see everything you’ve written come together in to an episode?


SM: What does it feel like? It feels absolutely brilliant. That’s how it feels. There are things I’ve experienced in life which don’t get old - quite a few, actually! - and that is definitely one of them.


It can be murderously difficult getting all the bits together, but genuinely, it is joyous. It’s wonderful. Absolutely terrific. I haven’t got an ounce of cynicism in me about that process.


I think it is… utterly thrilling. And if that’s something you want to do, don’t let anyone tell you ‘you know that really is a proper job, and you have to work very hard, and it’s probably not as exciting as it seems…’ yes it bloody is! It’s Doctor Who stories! It’s brilliant. I do not ever get tired of that.


Is that true for Brian and Will, too?


WC: Completely inspiring. You can have a really bad few days, but you look at it, even tonight, just to hear what everyone else has done, all of it coming together is hugely inspiring.


BM: I find it quite addictive, because you get to tell such huge stories, on such a big scale. You know how much people care about the show and you really want it to be as good as it can possibly be. Everyone wants it to be the best ever, and we get amazing writers, amazing actors… it’s a fantastic feeling.


What was the first episode you made of Doctor Who?


SM: Well, the first one I wrote, when Russell was running Doctor Who, was called The Empty Child. It was a little gas mask boy, crying for his mummy. And the first one when I was Excessing it, was The Eleventh Hour


Well, The Eleventh Hour was the first one that went out - the first one with Matt Smith in. The first one we actually made was the Weeping Angels one, The Time of Angels and Flesh and Stone


That seems ages ago to you, doesn’t it? That’s really appallingly old. My kids were saying ‘we’re watching one of the old Doctor Who’s, daddy!’ and I was thinking ‘brilliant! They’ve finally taken my advice! Which one is it?’The Girl in the Fireplace. That’s not old!


All these episodes are really complex. How do you plan them? Where do you plan them? Do you have a lair? 


SM: I should have a lair… Maybe something underground… Sorry, I’m distracted now thinking about designing my lair…


Yes, you do plot out… actually, do you know, one thing we did this year is to not write things down. Get to the point where you have memorised every episode you’re going to do, and what’s going to happen, where Clara is, where Danny is. We never really had a document, really. It keeps it flexible in your head.


I have this fear when I write things down, that having written it, I will stick to it. I don’t really want to. I want to think it’s still flexible. But I’m definitely getting some work done on that lair…


Do you ever make very, very, very late changes? On set even? How down to the wire?


SM: We don’t make huge late changes, because you can’t. It’s a huge, military show. Down to the wire…? Oh my GOD, yeah! 


How much do you listen to fan’s feedback?


SM: It’s an interesting question. There was a little Doctor Who fan in Scotland, who wrote in repeatedly, to the point that the BBC complained about him. We recently cast him as the Doctor… Never let anyone tell you it doesn’t work! That was the most successful letter-writing campaign in history!


It’s a hard one. As most Doctor Who fans would be the first to say that they are not typical members of the audience. And the voice of the fan is in my head - I sit awake at night worrying about UNIT dating… You don’t even know what that means! Personally, I think Captain Yates was dating Osgood.


I think, I keep saying this, there’s the ‘fans’, and there’s the other 100% of the audience. That’s what you have to make it appeal as; a huge mainstream hit. I do believe it’s true that that’s what they want Doctor Who to be. They don’t want it to be a minority thing, they want it to be a huge thing. That does occasionally mean that you make decisions fans don’t like as much. But, I tell you the truth: you listen to a good idea.


Out of all the planets the Doctor has visited, which is your favourite? 


Will Cohen: One of Steven’s planets… Silence in the Library is one of them! We won an award for it! There’s this wonderful awards do in America, in Los Angeles, and they voted that as the best environment in a TV show, which was real honour for us. It was the first time we’d won for Doctor Who and we were chuffed.


SM: Just to do with the ingenuity of our former producer Marcus Wilson, there was a time when we were filming Asylum of the Daleks and the Doctor’s running around on top of a snowcapped mountain.


The reason I love that is nothing to do with the snow or anything like that, but because Marcus was out shooting the cowboy episode, A Town Called Mercy, and he looked out of his window and thought ‘hang on, there’s snow up there! Instead of doing that in the studio, I’m just going to phone up the Doctor Who production office and send them out!’ I thought that was just an example of brilliant producing.


WC: I’m very fond of Gallifrey, too, when we went there for the Time War. To go over Arcadia…


SM: But what about the one we’re going to do for the first story next year…?


You can’t just say that! Can you tell us any more?


SM: No!


Next year also marks ten years since the programme returned to our screens. Are there any plans to celebrate that?


SM: If you think about it, isn’t it quite a complex message to put out there; ‘do you know that show that was 50 years old a little while ago, and we wouldn’t stop going on about it? Well, now it’s ten…’


I could be lying. My worry is always… my worry about the 50th, which seemed to come off, and people seemed to be really really happy, is how many times are you going to have a huge celebration of the show? You have to stop applauding yourself at some point, I think.


Brian Mincin: I think, between about 50 and 60, you start celebrating in fives, don’t you?


Through series 8, the theme is people ‘dying… but not really dying’. That’s something you can see a bit of in your previous episodes; in Silence in the Library they weren’t dead they were in a computer, for example. We haven’t seen much final ‘before their time’ death…


SM: Were you watching that episode?


Exactly! There were lot’s of surprising deaths in that. Is that a theme that will continue? People dying before their time?


SM: Dear God! I was told directly by Russell ‘you’ve written six episodes of Doctor Who and not killed anyone’ - he meant fictional characters! - so, I don’t know. Do you know what? I’m sentimental. I am, I’m sentimental, and I actually quite like people not doing - in real life and in fiction!


If I watch a show and somebody dies, I always want them to come back to life at the end. Like in The Lion King! Where’s his dad? Ever since that damn film Bambi, I’ve been saying ‘fiction has control over death’! Bring nice people back!


How did you arrive at Peter Capaldi’s costume as the Doctor?


BM: When Peter was finding his outfit, I think he tried on every form of clothing that was possible. We were getting these hilarious photos of different versions of what the Doctor could be. He was very single-minded in his attempt to try on every different outfit in London…


SM: The ones he didn’t like, he just stood in the photographs like [grumpy expression]. But the ones he did like he did [strikes a ‘Doctor’ pose]!.


BM: He didn’t quite go back to the very first one he tried, but close.


Who made the final decision on the costume? Was it Peter Capaldi?


SM: Yes. We all loved it, it looked great, but the job of that costume is to make Peter Capaldi feel like the Doctor. I think it’s total nonsense to impose a costume on somebody. They have to sort of find it, make it part of their Doctor.


Obviously, we turned down the clown suit… And the gorilla mask… we’d ask him to think again…


What’s happening with River Song?


SM: Well… She’s dead!


You will admit that it’s a troubled relationship which begins in that way. Which goes from death, to a wedding where one of them is a miniaturised version of themselves in a robot duplicate… it’s not normal. Where can we go from there?


I said to Russell, he was just asking what was going on because he does, I said that I think that’s it, and we’re not going to do that again and he said ‘Noooo! Noooo! Capaldi and Kingston! It’ll be a sex storm!’


So when you see an episode called ‘Sex Storm’, written by Russell T Davies… I don’t know. She was a great character, I loved her, but I always worried that you might be bringing something back who’s day is done. Said he. As the Executive Producer of the 51-year-old show…!


Does the Doctor have a name?


SM: Well… he must have one. But it cannot be known by anyone. His name’s the Doctor, that’s the name he’s chosen.


But yes, in the fiction of the show. At some point he had a name that for whatever reason we may speculate on, he has completely abandoned. But you know, I wouldn’t feel entitled to make one up. I pretended I was going to once by calling an episode The Name of the Doctor, but surprisingly enough it was a lie!

8 November 2014

Viewers who stayed tuned right to the end of tonight's Series 8 finale (Death In Heaven) were treated to a special preview trailer for the 2014 Doctor Who Christmas Special.

In the trailer, we see The Doctor at the North Pole, with Nick Frost who seems to be playing Santa Claus

Check out the trailer out in the player, below:

+  The Doctor Who Christmas Special will air on Christmas Day, Time TBC, on BBC One.

[Source: BBC]

8 November 2014

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

Day 677: Terror of the Vervoids, Episode Two (The Trial of a Time Lord, Episode Ten)

Dear diary,

There's something that I don't understand about Terror of the Vervoids, and it's the way that this 'evidence' fits in with the rest of the trial. The Valeyard presents two cases against the Doctor, as evidence of the way he meddles in the affairs of other peoples and planets. Okay, I can go along with that, although I'm not sure that he's actually chosen the best examples of such things (surely showing something like Frontios would be far more damning if it's the case that all adventures are recorded in the Matrix - after all, there the Doctor claims that it's expressly forbidden for him to even be there, and although he feigns protest, he's soon helping the colony out), and I'm also not sure why he chose to show one example that needed careful bleeping to stop High Council meddling from being seen, and another which shows the High Council directly influencing events by ensuring Ykarnos can kill everyone…

No, it's these four episodes which really confuse me. The Doctor has chosen to present an example of his adventures… from his own future. I think I can just about buy that the Matrix may have scanned such things (though if its recorded adventures that have yet to happen to the Doctor, then shouldn't the Valeyard be showing the War Doctor blowing up their own planet as his most damning evidence?), but I really don't understand why the Doctor has chosen this specific adventure to make his case! In the first Episode, even without the bits of the adventure which have been altered, the Doctor agrees when someone comments that the bodies start piling up as soon as he arrives! I'd also like to touch on this idea that the Matrix has been tampered with. Throughout the previous nine episodes, it's been clearly stated on several occasions that the Matrix simply cannot lie. The Doctor claims that events aren't being played here quite how he remembers them. He claims that they've been specifically edited to paint him in a bad light. In both examples (and at least the first of those is brought up on several occasions during both The Mysterious Planet and Mindwarp), the Valeyard and the Inquisitor point out to the Doctor that it's utter nonsense, as the Matrix can't be edited in such a way.

Then, in today's episode, the Valeyard accuses the Doctor of that type of meddling with the footage… and the Inquisitor points out to the Doctor how serious it would be if he were doing that! How come we've suddenly gone from it being an absurd notion to being something that's just frowned upon? The Doctor's claim that events being shown aren't quite as they were before was brought up as recently as yesterday, so it's not simply Pip and Jane Baker misunderstanding things…! I don't think I've lost track along the way, but I think the production team might well have done. I'll be keeping a close eye on the remainder of the Trial season, to see if this is now a permanent shift in attitude towards editing the Matrix. I'm also half wondering why they didn't include as a part of the Doctor's defence a flashback to lots of other stories, in which his meddling has been for the greater good. An annual flashback was common during the Peter Davison era, but this feels purpose built for one!

I'm a little saddened in today's episode that the direction isn't always as fantastic as it was yesterday. We seem to lurch from being really very good (the continuation of the explosions and sparks from the cliffhanger), to the very bad (the CSO starfield. It's not so much the starfield that doesn't work, it's the way that it's cropped out around Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford's hair! Yikes!). By the time we reach today's cliffhanger, things have perked up considerably, and the make-up of the half-human-half-plant creature is one of the programme's more successful alien prosthetics! I'm hoping things settle back down tomorrow into the 'good' camp! 

7 November 2014

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

Day 676: Terror of the Vervoids, Episode One (The Trial of a Time Lord, Episode Nine)

Dear diary,

Largely inspired by the gorgeous staging and camera work during today's cliffhanger, I watched on in the credits eagerly to see who the director was. It's Chris Clough's first work on Doctor Who, and I'm pleased to know that he'll be back for several more outings over the next few seasons. That final shot today is beautiful, as Mel's scream fades into the closing theme, and the camera pulls back past sparks and explosions, and giving us the brief look at something bursting out from the pods… this sequence wouldn't be out of place at the height of the Philip Hinchcliffe era, when the programme is supposed to be 'scary'. Not many of the cliffhangers during The Trial of a Time Lord are anything other than a close up of the Doctor's face, so it's nice to see that this one has used the break from the current norm to do something really interesting and different!

I think it's helped, too, by the fact that the Hydroponics Centre set is so beautifully done, and the same can be said for the hold outside. Some people write off all 1980s Doctor Who as being poorly lit like the Myrka sequences from Warriors of the Deep, but this is the perfect example that the programme can still get it right in this era! This episode is also a good one for showing off the full sale of the trial room setting - it's another huge set, and when shot from interesting angles, there's lots of little details to pick out. Sadly, not all the sets in this story are as effective, and I don't really much care for the main passenger quarters of the space liner. I think they're supposed to look a bit cheap and tacky, but they come across as terribly dated now, too. There's one or two shots where I can sort of see what they were aiming for (with some nice shots of the stars passing by the windows overhead), but I'm afraid that I'm not being won over by them.

Today's episode also sees the introduction of a new companion for the Doctor… and I think it's fair to say that it's the strangest introduction we've ever seen for a new regular to the programme. Forget Dodo bursting in and giving us her life story, here, Mel just happens to be stood around with the Doctor in the TARDIS, forcing him to work out on an exercise bike! Something I've not missed this season is the lengthy TARDIS scenes which so dominated Season Twenty-Two. We've not had any sight of the Console room now since Timelash, which has been a refreshing break. When we catch up with this pair in there today, it feels as though it should be a fairly fun scene, with the Doctor and his companion getting on with something a bit more mundane in between adventures, but…

Well, I just don't care about Mel! Not yet, anyway. Were this the Doctor and Peri opening the episode with this scene, I think I'd be more willing to buy it - they're clearly written and acted as two people who have spent a lot of time together and become great friends, but because this is the first time we ever set eyes on the girl, it's very hard to muster up much enthusiasm towards her! That said, her enthusiasm is infectious, and it's hard not to quite like her when she sets off exploring. She clearly works very well with Colin's Doctor, too, which is quite fun, and they're already at the stage here that Peri took until The Mysterious Planet to reach in the Doctor's attitude! 

6 November 2014

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

Day 675: Mindwarp, Episode Four (The Trial of a Time Lord, Episode Eight) 

Dear diary, 

I've never been overly fond of Peri's exit from Doctor Who, in either this form, or the alternative that gets offered during the end of the Trial season. I'm not entirely sure what doesn't sit right about it with me (it certainly not the fact that a companion dies, because I think that works wonders in the cases of Katarina, Sara, and Adric), but I've always thought that it stick out as simply being wrong somehow. 

Watching the episode today, though, I can't help but realise just how effective it is! I mean... it's brutal. I think the moment that it really starts to turn and you suddenly realise how much you fear for Peri is when Crozier orders her head shaved, and it feels so out of nowhere, and something that we can relate to so easily, especially given that Peri's hair has been allowed to grow out this season, fuller than we've seen it before. 

It then also shocked me when we cut back to the laboratory a little while later, and it's been done! I know from seeing the story before that Nicola Bryant goes out wearing a bald cap, but I'd sort of forgotten just how effectively it works, and I love that they don't make a big deal of it. We cut back to the action, and Peri's laying there bald. If anything, I think that's more scary than when she sits up at the end and starts talking in a deep, scary voice. No matter how much I'm enjoying it here, it still doesn't sit quite right in my mind, and it sticks out too much as a companion departure - not necessarily in a good way. 

People often complain that the effect of this ending gets entirely undermined come the end of the season, when it transpires that she's actually living happily as a warrior queen alongside Yrcanos, and I'm sure I'll make my own mind up about that when I get there. That said, I can't help but think it's been clearly signposted throughout the story - especially in these last couple of episodes! I'm sure Colin Baker tells the story that they only addend the 'happy ending' for Peri later on when he wondered what was real and what had been faked in the trial, but I think it's clearly set up that Peri should be going off to rule with this man! Oh, I don't think it's something that she would ever do by choice, and she'd never purposely give up life in the TARDIS for that particular fate, but I don't think it feels too out of place in retrospect. 

Brian Blessed has actually impressed a great deal throughout this story - far more than I was expecting him to! I mused the other day that you hire him to simply be Brian Blessed on screen, and while there's plenty of that on display in Mindwarp, he actually has lots of rather nice little moments alongside Nicola Bryant in particular, and I'm very impressed with him on the whole. 

Today's episode has continued to take the aspects I was finding scary yesterday - the Doctor not being able to remember what happened - and ramp them up a gear, making things even scarier in the process. I love (and I can't stress that enough, love) the way that the TARDIS appears in the corridor right in the middle of all the chaos, and the Doctor is compelled to walk backwards in to the box. There's something genuinely scary about the Doctor being taken away at just the moment everything comes to a head, and that works so well. I think my only slight criticism about this sequence is that the chaos isn't quite enough for me! You've got lots of supporting artists spinning around in corridors, but I want explosions and people tearing the set apart! Really up the stakes! 

So with that, we've said goodbye to Peri, and we're off on the next stage of the programme's life. I think I like how much you couldn't predict Peri's departure from the way she joins the series back in Planet of Fire, and I'm not sure if I can remember the last time the programme had been shaken up this much between a companion's arrival and departure, either. We're deep in to the period of Doctor Who that many people consider to be the weakest, now, and the introduction of Mel in the next episode is something that many consider to be another step towards death. If I can enjoy her as much as I've enjoyed all the other things recently that I'm not supposed to... I think we're in for a treat! 

6 November 2014

DWO’s Spoiler-free preview of episode 8.12: Death in Heaven:


It barely seems possible that we can already be at the end of Peter Capaldi’s first season as the Doctor - and what a ride its been! Death in Heaven is certainly the perfect capstone for the entire series, tying together threats that have been running since Deep Breath at the start of the run, and even a few that stretch back further, in to the eras of earlier Doctors.


Doctor Who Online went to get a preview of the episode at a screening in Cardiff on Tuesday evening, alongside a number of fans of the show. The atmosphere at the event sums up, we think, the general reaction to the whole of Series Eight this year. There was laughter (sometimes raucous, always in the right places), gasps of shock, and even a few teary eyes in places. If killing off regular character Danny Pink in the prattles to the last episode set this story up as one where anything could happen, and no one is safe… well, you ain’t seen nothing yet.


The next statement is probably quite predictable - that series regulars Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, and Samuel Anderson are on fine form, and - as they’ve done almost every week of the run - continue to raise the bar to a whole new level. There are times when Peter’s Doctor will absolutely break your heart, and he plays it beautifully. On equally fine form is Michelle Gomez, now revealed to be the latest incarnation of the Doctor’s arch enemy the Master. Any quibbles people had about making such a drastic change to the character will surely melt away when you see her squaring up to our Twelfth Doctor - the pair are electrifying, and it’s safe to say that the Gomez incarnation will be topping several people’s lists as ‘favourite Master’. Oh, and did we mention - she’s absolutely bananas.


Director Rachel Talalay - who’s helmed both episodes of this finale - provides us with some stunning visuals, and some of the best action sequences that the programme has ever given us. There’s moments here where you genuinely could believe that you’re watching a multi-million dollar hollywood blockbuster, and yet it’s all been realised on a modest TV budget. We’ve heard it said time and time again over the years that the Doctor Who team are some of the hardest working and most skilled people in the industry, and it’s never been more in evidence than at times during this episode. You can really sense the labour of love that’s gone in to making it, and it’s worth every little bit of effort.


You may have noticed that we’re trying to give away as little as possible, and that’s because the full impact of this episode comes best when you sit down not knowing what to expect. We could wax lyrical about the reference to [X], or a cameo from [Y], or reveal that the Doctor… well, anyway. Death in Heaven is Doctor Who at its finest. Action packed, emotional, funny, and a little bit silly. What more could you want?



Five things to look out for:

“There is no Clara Oswald. I invented her. I made her up.”

2) “Something for your bucket list…”

3) “He’s on the payroll…”

4) A new title sequence.

5) “Didn’t you think to look?”

[Source: DWO, Will Brooks]

5 November 2014

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

Day 674: Mindwarp, Episode Three (The Trial of a Time Lord, Episode Seven) 

Dear diary, 

The thing I'm liking most about Mindwarp is the idea that the Doctor can't really remember anything that's happening here. There's something genuinely unsettling about the moment when he first interrupts the episode to tell the court that he can't remember what he's seeing - and Colin plays it as calm and a little bit scared. He shouts and gestures again only moments later, but suddenly it's because he's genuinely worried by the event,s not because he's putting on a show for the sake of the trial. I love that even he isn't entirely sure that this isn't just the way he behaves, and when he's trying to convince the Inquisitor of his innocence, it comes across as the man trying to convince himself more than anything. This is then all turned back on him. when he does get back the odd pocket of memories, and the Valeyard points out how convenient it is for him to remember now... yeah, this is probably my favourite thing about the trial so far. 

Sadly, though, the episode itself isn't grabbing me at all. I'm getting on better with it now than on previous viewings, and I actually understand better what's going on this time (I'd somehow convinced myself that the sandy-coloured Mentor in this story was a separate character to either Sil or Kiv, and forgotten that he was Kiv's replacement body), but I'm still not enjoying it half as much as I did with The Mysterious Planet. I'm beginning to wonder if it may just be that I don't get on with Philip Martin's style of writing. Vengeance on Varos is often hailed as a total 'classic', and yet I'm not as fussed on it as some people seem to be, and while I've often seen this episode trumpeted as being the best of the Trial season, it's leaving me completely cold! 

A few years ago, I did a different kind of Doctor Who marathon with my friend Nick Mellish, who provides many of the Big Finish audio reviews here on Doctor Who Online. We made our way through all of the Paul McGann audio plays from Storm Warning through To the Death, which comprised ten years of adventures for the Eighth Doctor. We wrote our thoughts about each episode and emailed them to each other, eventually putting together a book which followed the marathon. For a brief period, the Eighth Doctor's companion Charley ends up going off on travels with the Sixth Doctor, and we dutifully followed her for a few weeks, in adventures with Daleks, and Draconians, and even the odd Kroton or two. 

Once we'd finished the marathon, and started to get withdrawal symptoms from not hearing a new episode every day, we decided to do it all over again with a different Doctor. The Sixth incarnation seemed to be the obvious choice, having already been through a few adventures and really enjoying them, and we decided that we'd start with the season of 'lost' stories from the originally planned Season Twenty-Three. Over the last five years or so, Big Finish have dramatised lots of stories originally written for the show and at some point left behind, but when they did this first set, it was something of a novelty, picking up stories that have grown up their own reputation within fandom. Stories like The Nightmare Fair, which would have pitted the Doctor and Peri against the Celestial Toymaker on a holiday to Blackpool, The Hollows of Time, a rematch between the Doctor and the Gravis (and the Master), and The Space Whale, which has been a 'work in progress' story for so many Doctors that it's hard to keep track. And then there's Mission to Magnus

Magnus is the story originally proposed by Philip Martin for Season Twenty-Three, long before the format of the trial was imposed. It was to feature the return of Sil, alongside the Ice Warriors, and has always been one of the 'lost' tales that people know a little bit more about. But we didn't really much care for it. We never managed to finish our Sixth Doctor marathon, as real life got in the way slowly, but looking back over the entries wrote to each other for that story... I was mostly just left a bit bored by it, and it's perhaps telling that I don't mention Sil anywhere in my write up. He obviously made very little impact on me! Nick was somewhat less forgiving, because of the way that Martin's scripts tend to treat (and talk about) their female characters. Thinking back to the Eighth Doctor book, neither of us were very keen on Martin's The Creed of the Kromon, either (that's putting it mildly), and so I think this story has decided it once and for all for me - I simply cannot get in to his stories. Here's hoping that the one final episode may well be enough to bring things around...  

4 November 2014

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

Day 673: Mindwarp, Episode Two (The Trial of a Time Lord, Episode Six) 

Dear diary, 

I seem to be saying it an awful lot of late (he's not around for long - I'm glad I can make the most of it here and now), but Colin Baker really is fantastic, isn't he? He's got that perfect quality for an actor to play the Doctor, where he can salvage anything, and you really perk up when he's on the screen - and not just because you're looking directly at that coat! In this episode, when tasked with playing a Doctor who's brain has been fried, and isn't quite acting himself, even by this incarnation's standards, he really relishes it and runs with it - there's a few shades of Troughton-as-an-androgum in the performance, and I'm becoming more and more saddened that we've only these two seasons of Colin to watch. I've heard various Big Finish adventures with him in over the years, but I have a feeling that I'll be seeking them out a bit more thoroughly once this marathon is over. People talk about the fact that he had a renaissance on audio, but I love him here and now on screen! 

It's perhaps a good mark of his skill that he's able to stand out so much in this episode... when Brian Blessed has been woken up (oh how tempting to simply write that name in capitals...)! Blessed has become something of a national treasure over the years, and you can sort of see here that he's already started to become a parody of himself. That's not a criticism, mind, because Blessed has managed to go so far into being his own parody, that it's no longer even that - it's just what you want! Philip Martin has said in the past that he was thinking of Blessed for the part and was overjoyed to hear that John Nathan-Turner was thinking along the same lines, and it's not hard to see why, is it? King Yrcanos has been written to be played by Brian Blessed, and you almost get the sense that they've stuck him into a costume, placed him on the set, and told him to just get on and do whatever he wants! 

The actual story today is interesting me a little more than it did yesterday, but only marginally. I can't honestly claim to be enjoying it. Oh, there's lots I am liking here - those aforementioned performances, along with the sets on the whole (there's a story that Colin Baker saw the invoice for that big round door in the set and loudly declared to the rehearsal room that it cost more for these four episodes than Nicola Bryant did! You can almost believe it, though, because the door is a great piece of set, and I'm surprised the cost wasn't deferred by being used lots more in Doctor Who after this, like the modern series does with particularly expensive sets! - on the whole, though, I'm just not all that invested on the events here. 

I wonder if part of it may be that I know Peri will be bowing out in a couple of days, and I've never been fond of her exit (either of them)? There's a vague sense of simply wanting to get that over with, so we can bring in Mel and start the programme off on another new phase. I'm also having what I can only describe as 'Sabalom-Glitz- Withdrawl-Symptoms'... none of the supporting cast in this story are anywhere near as entertaining as Glitz and Dibber! When I was watching Vengeance on Varos, I found myself being rather taken by Sil, and he was often the thing I was enjoying most about the story. Here, though, he's simply boring me, and I can't really decide why. I think it's a combination of the costume not working quite as well here as it did back then (there's a few instances where you can see it's clearly slipped down his face a little), and Nabil Shaban seeming to give a slightly different performance, which just isn't quite working for me. Maybe being surrounded by all these other people in charge of him is lessening the character a bit, where he could be so thoroughly unlikeable the last time around, coming across as being 'the boss'?  

3 November 2014

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

Day 672: Mindwarp, Episode One (The Trial of a Time Lord, Episode Five) 

Dear diary, 

More than once over the years, I've heard Mindwarp described as being the best segment of the Trial season, and yet when I've seen the full series before, I really didn't much care for it, and think I remember it as the opposite end of the scale - as the weakest of the stories here! I'm not sure what it was about the story that I didn't like on the last occasion, but I think I can guess from watching this episode; I'm just a little bit bored

I'm not even entirely sure why that should be, because there's certainly a lot going on in this episode. You've got an alien world that's looking very alien (more on which in a minute), two 'monsters' attacking our regulars, plus the regulation guards chasing after them and taking them as the 'villains' in the situation, the return of Sil, and lots of action in the trial room itself. The episode is positively bursting with things happening, but almost all of them are failing to grab my attention. The big selling point is surely the return of Sil to the programme, having featured in Vengeance on Varos last season... but that story didn't excite me in the way most people enjoy it, either, so I'm not terribly bothered by his return! 

The one area which I do rather like is the planet's surface. A sea of pink, which washes against rocks of blue under a green sky... and all in the most florescent hue they could possibly achieve. It's ridiculously garish, and incredibly of its time, but I'm really rather impressed with it. This feels like the programme really going out of its way to present us with a truly alien world for the first time since... well, in quite some while, anyway. Often enough, alien planets in the series have settled into being a standard quarry/jungle/only seen from the inside/studio set, and while this is shot out on a simple beach, the effects added in post production really make it look like something a bit special. When you compare this to some of the original location footage in the extras on the DVD... you can see how bland it might have looked otherwise! Did it stand out as much on first broadcast as being this garish, or did it just seem fittingly 'of the time'? 

I seem to be flip-flopping in regards to the actual trial scenes as each episode goes by. A few days ago, I started to find them irritating, before Colin Baker giving a rather brilliant performance managed to win them back around for me. Today, they seem to be perhaps a little over-bearing - I'm sure there's more in this episode than any of the others so far? We seemed to be cutting back and forth every few scenes. 

I'm starting to wonder if I may not mind this so much were we given a bit more going on in each of them; there much have been four or five so far this season which boil down to the Doctor asking if what we're seeing is relevant, and the Inquisitor musing that she's been wondering the same. If there's not much to actually say in these moments, then would they perhaps be better left out? Or, at least, confined to the start and the end of episodes, if they need to be included to remind us of the on-going narrative of the season. I thought that the opening of this episode, for example, was rather good, summing up the story we've just watched, reminding us that there's still some lingering questions about it, and then setting the scene for the next adventure. It's only when we start popping back for the odd line here and there that I start to lose patience... I bet all those supporting artists in Time Lord collars got bored of it, too, having to swivel back and forth on those chairs every three minutes! 

2 November 2014

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

Day 671: The Mysterious Planet, Episode Four (The Trial of a Time Lord, Episode Four) 

Dear diary, 

I've said it before during this story, but I really do love Sabalom Glitz. What's surprised me is how much I've enjoyed him being partnered up with Dibber - I' always thought of Dibber as being a weaker link to the character. They're absolutely brilliant together, and it's a bit of a shame that we don't get to see them paired up again in any other stories. There's just so much to love about them, and a certain amount of that needs to be placed at Robert Holmes' door, filling their mouths with plenty of dialogue which has made me smile and laugh almost all the way through their scenes. I'm genuinely hugely surprised that the pair haven't been brought back in any of the Big Finish audios - Tony Selby and Glen Murphy are still working actors, and surely I can't be the only one who would love to hear them back against either the Sixth or Seventh Doctors? I'm going to cross my fingers tightly, because I think this may be my number one thing that I'd love to hear happen! 

These two aren't the only ones to impress me in The Mysterious Planet, either. I've already praised Colin Baker's performance once in the last few days, but it really does bear repeating again here - he's really a very good Doctor. Today's highlight from him comes in the form of his courtroom outburst, in which he riles against the Valeyard and the situation he's found himself in. It's a very over-the-top performance, full of gusto and bravado... and it's perfect for the moment. This incarnation of the Doctor, perhaps more than any other, is prone to being a bit theatrical, and he shows that perfectly here. What makes it all the more compelling is the sheer rage underneath it all. Colin completely goes for the scene with all that he can muster, and it's simply electrifying to watch. We're drawing ever closer to his all-too-brief time in the programme, now, and I really am going to miss him when he's gone. I'd so dearly love to see what this man could have done with the part given a few more years to expand and grow with the character. 

We're also getting nearer to the departure of Robert Holmes from the show, with this being his final complete story for the Doctor. He'll be back again for Episode Thirteen of the Trial season, but we won't be getting any more full stories from the man. Before I’d embarked on a big Doctor Who marathon, writers were largely interchangeable in my head. There was no real sense of ‘[X] writes very good stories’ while ‘[Y] writes very bad ones’, I just had a list of names floating around who had written stories at some point. Even then, though, I knew of Robert Holmes being considered the ‘bed tot the best’. So many other writers for the programme over the years have singled him out as the man who knew how to do it, so it was hard to miss his contribution. I couldn’t have told you much about my own thought’s to Holmes’ stories, because frankly they’d all blended in to the big pot of ‘Doctor Who tales’ in my head. 

But actually, having now sat through all of his contributions to the Doctor Who mythos, I can quite clearly see why he's considered to be such a luminary. Several of his stories have ended up towards the upper end of my ratings since he first cropped up in The Krotons, and I’m going to miss him being a part of the programme. 

And with that, we move on to the second segment of the Trial season - Mindwarp. From a previous viewing, I think of these next four episodes as being my least favourite of the season, but I've found plenty of new things to enjoy about The Mysterious Planet, so I'm hoping that the same will be true as we move forward... 


While I'm here, a quick note about how I'm rating The Trial of a Time Lord. You may have noticed that I'm referring to the different segments by their commonly-agreed-upon titles - The Mysterious Planet, Mindwarp, Terror of the Vervoids, and The Ultimate Foe. I'm really doing this because it makes it easier to discuss them here without you having to think about which part of the Trial, say, Episode Six might be, or Episode Ten. When it comes to rating the story as a whole, I'll be including it as one story (it is, after all, one big story - the credits say so!), but including the scores for the individual segments, too, so we can better see how they fit in to the Colin Baker era on the whole. And to make the 'average rating' list for his era a bit longer - it would be horribly short otherwise! 

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