Time Lord Tees

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5 November 2013

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

Day 309: The Dæmons, Episode Four

While I'm sorry to say that I'm still not really bothered at all by The Dæmons, I am pleased to report that today is by far my favourite episode of the serial. There's just so many moments in here that have really appealed to me, and most of all, it's raised a few laughs, too.

This is the point where I start to become a yo-yo, and I tell you that despite my dislike for the way the Doctor was behaving in yesterday's episode, I've really enjoyed him today! I knew that things were on the up when the Brigadier asked the Doctor if he was positive that he knew what he was doing, and he replies 'my dear fellow, I can't wait to find out!' The whole exchange reminded me of a similar one between the Second Doctor and Jamie (in which the Highlander asks the Doctor if he knows what he's doing and the response comes as 'oh what a question! Of course I don't!')

From there, we get another action sequence as the Doctor hurries back to the village on a motorbike and finds himself shot at (still nothing all that special in the direction, sadly), and then the best scene that we've had in the entire story, as the Doctor finds himself trapped by a troupe of sinister Morris Dancers. The whole scene of entrapment is great to start with, as it moves from playful fun to something genuinely scary, but I think it's the following scene in which the Doctor is revealed to be a 'wizard' which really works for me.

I'm pleased to see that Bessie's remote control feature is being used for an actual plot reason - it seems just that bit too convenient at the start of the story when he used it to trick Jo, having installed it at just the right time - and it's a brilliant sequence from start to finish. When the Third Doctor is having fun, I think I can enjoy him a whole lot more, and this scene is the perfect example of that.

Perhaps the thing that's striking me the most about this story is the sets. I don't often draw attention to them, because they don't always stand out in every single story, but the ones we've got here are pretty special. I think it's a testament to the work that's been put in that I spent several minutes today trying to figure out if Jo's room at the pub was a set or filmed on location with everything else (I think I'm right in saying that The Dæmons has one of the highest film-to-video ratios of the era, so it's not too unbelievable). It's the little set of steps down to the door that does it - you don't normally get that kind of attention to detail.

The set of the cavern is pretty good too, and again there's a set of steps to help give the space a slightly different feel. The lighting used here is pretty good, too, which always helps. I can't help but wonder how Azal fits, though. We're constantly told how tall he can grow, and it would somewhat undermine the cliffhanger if he has to start crouching down under a low ceiling after a while…

 

4 November 2013

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

Day 308: The Dæmons, Episode Three

Dear diary,

When I wrote yesterday about this story reminding me of Quatermass and the Pit, I feared that it might be flippant of me. I was basing the link simply on the scene of the Doctor and Jo exploring the hidden spaceship and the fact that it had recently been discovered unexpectedly during a dig. Actually, though, this is very much like that third Quatermass serial, innit?

The mysterious spaceship turns out to be the craft of a species who periodically visits Earth and who have inspired our mythology - particularly when it comes to horned creatures being the devil. I have to say that this similarity isn't really heeling The Dæmons win me over any more, because suddenly I'm just too busy trying to spot other connections.

Earlier today, I was tying to explain the issues of 'popular' stories to my other half. I mused that The Dæmons probably isn't any better or worse than Colony in Space, but because I'm coming into the story expecting something from years of reputation, everything's just a bit of a let down. I'm automatically marking this story down a few points because it's just not as good as I'd expected it to be, and I think it's the same issue that's plagued stories from Evil of the Daleks to Fury From the Deep.

The thing is, there's still a lot to like here! It's the perfect example of the Pertwee years as being action packed, in a scene that sees a helicopter chase end with a big explosion! The Doctor takes off on a motorbike! Jo gets thrown (gently) from Bessie! I'm just not bothered by any of it. The direction isn't bad, but it's just very workaday. I was excited to see the return of Christopher Barry because the last two stories he directed fared pretty well with me… but then I remembered that neither existed in the archives, so what I'd enjoyed were the telesnaps! Going back to Barry's last surviving story - The Romans - I seem to recall it was nothing special there, either.

The Master is very good in this one, and it's nice to see him getting the chance to really use his powers of persuasion. He's somewhat hampered by calling in the gargoyle when things get out of hand, though. The design is nice enough, but when it's prancing around on the screen it just looks a bit naff - nowhere near as scary as I'd always assumed it to be. The effects when it disposes of someone are quite good, but it's still just a bit of a let down for me. At least Roger Delgado really suits those glasses.

To some extent, I'd been enjoying the relationship between the Doctor and Jo, and it had been helping me along a bit, but today he's just downright dismissive of her in places. It's the kind of character that I remember the Third Doctor as being, and I think it's the one I always associate with a dislike of the era. In yesterday's episode when he asks Jo if she failed latin as well as science, it comes across as a bit of a joke: just some banter between good friends. Today, he comes across as simply being a bit of an arse, and it's not really helping me to enjoy the story…

Once UNIT are properly in the village and we can get a big, end-of-season battle, I think I may start to get more involved, but it's looking increasingly like The Dæmons may end up on the pile of 'classics' that just don't appeal to me…

4 November 2013

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, the creative team behind DWO's hit YouTube series, Doctor Who Online Adventures, and in concert with Children In Need, Doctor Who Online and Anglia Ruskin present an astounding brand new hour-long, full cast audio drama – 'One Fine Time Lord'!

Listen to the Trailer:

The Story:

“History Will Be Written”

Gallifrey: The Ancient Times. 

Long ago, Time Lord society honoured its oldest surviving member, the last of the ‘great’ Lords of Time.

One man had sought to bring about peace across the planet by uniting the houses at war and introducing a ‘non-interference’ policy, thus ushering in a new era of harmony. His name - Lord Archeron.

But with his life’s work “almost complete” he strikes up a partnership with a young boy who marvels at this man’s legacy and an uneasy friendship ensues with the mighty sage.

Soon however, the ancient Time Lord will reveal his true ambition for the people of Gallifrey and the boy must make the ultimate decision. The price for peace across the planet might be higher than anyone expected...

Join the most powerful story in Time Lord history.

Behind The Scenes:

The story was written and directed by former BBC Director and current series producer of Doctor Who Online Adventures, Brendan Sheppard:

“I wrote this political thriller script over a very long period of time and knew it would be a great idea for an audio drama, I never imagined the sheer amount of people that would get on board to make it happen though especially in a production that is a spin off to the hit TV series. I’d like to thank my wonderful producers, fantastic cast and Doctor Who Online all of whom dedicated their time and expertise (for free) to make this production happen and I can’t wait for you to hear it!”

Kim Mai-Bates was charged with Producing the piece:

“As a producer your job is to ensure that everything runs smoothly from start to finish; without the support of the cast and crew this wouldn't have been as successful. However the most challenging part was choosing the cast; we had some great talent audition for us and I want to thank those people for taking the time to audition. I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with the wonderful cast we decided upon.

Working as a producer on One Fine Time Lord was a different and exciting experience for me. Being on the audition panel, rehearsal and the studio recording was mind-blowing as the cast and crew had passion and such energy. I’ve come away with a real life experience that has made me want to pursue a career in producing. Christopher Whitehead (The Son) is the youngest member of our cast. He made quite an impression with me when he insisted that giving him an audition would be worth it; I’m happy to say that it was worth it, thoroughly impressed. Despite his age, he has a well developed set of skills; one to watch out for. An absolute joy to work with.

When Iain Dootson (Lord Archeron) entered the audition room I instantly got a positive vibe from him. He won me over with his ability to adapt himself to the situations we put him in. We tested him and he passed with flying colours.

Brendan’s (The Writer/Director) child-like energy and excitement about Doctor Who and this project set the tone for the rest of us. Sometimes I had to rein Brendan back in because his enthusiasm for Doctor Who and the script was distracting him from his director duties; this made the production a lot of fun to work on though. Brendan’s vision was clear and focused which made this production run smoothly; his support was very much appreciated.

Producing One Fine Time Lord has been one of the highlights of my career. The cast and crew were incredible to work with. It was an absolute joy to be a part of this production. Not one to miss!”

Kim helped assemble a terrific cast and crew through a lengthy audition process that took place in Anglia Ruskin University during July. Actors from all over the UK and Ireland came to audition and a huge cast was put together from the outstanding talent.

Executive Producer David Clouter a former BBC Radio 4 producer was on hand to lead the project:

“I grew up hiding behind the sofa while William Hartnell was chased by Daleks. Nobody had any idea that fifty years later we would be celebrating the anniversary of one of the UK's best loved programmes. It has been a real privilege and a pleasure to play a small part in that celebration. The auditions are something that I'll remember for a long time dozens of potential actors travelled from all over the UK to take part.

Over the course of a weekend, it soon became clear that the bar was set very high. After the last of our hopefuls had departed, the final selection process took far longer than we had anticipated. But having arrived at a unanimous decision, as the recording unfolded it was incredibly rewarding to see the way in which the whole cast and crew threw themselves into the p!roduction with such enthusiasm and dedication.”

M. Justin Parsons a leading script editor based in the US was invited to work as the project’s script editor:

"Brendan Sheppard presented me with an exciting and fascinating script to edit in One Fine Time Lord which gives us brand new insights into the culture and history of the Time Lords of Gallifrey. The main challenge, however, involved presenting a story within a realm audiences know and love - Doctor Who - yet without the main characters they would expect to be involved. In fact, we had to introduce an entire new cast and do this in such a way that these characters were compelling in their own right.

The beauty of Doctor Who and its incredible fifty year journey is that (over time) the programme has defined its main character and his people so vividly that the backdrop of Gallifrey was all that we needed to proceed. We realised it wasn't necessary to establish where these characters were or how they might interact with one another. The Time Lords are so well known that the very mention of their name conjures up all the images and knowledge one requires to fully connect with this stunning adventure.

The template, as it were, was already set and Brendan has done Doctor Who proud with an engaging tale that builds perfectly upon what the past fifty years have established. It has been my pleasure to edit this wonderful story and take part in honouring the 50th Anniversary of a truly outstanding science-fiction phenomenon."

Iain Dootson was chosen from hundreds of hopefuls to play the lead character of Lord Archeron, last of the great Time Lords:

"As a longstanding (sometimes sitting) Doctor Who fan, from frankly fearful watching behind the sofa in the Seventies to enjoying from a comfier armchair with the more recent Tennants of the title role I was excited and intrigued by the chance to take part in this story. I applied forthwith and when the Producer, Kim Bates, kindly notified me of an audition slot I was very pleased and set off to Cambridge on a bright sunshiny day to Anglia Ruskin. This university happens to be the alma mater of a mate of mine (and fellow Whovian) who unfortunately couldn't make it to the auditions but he was with me to share the excitement when I got the call to say that I'd not only got a part but I was to play the significant role of Lord Archeron.

A return to the equally sunny location in June led to an auspicious start... A welcome and good luck live link from Colin Baker. The ensuing three days recording were enjoyable, relaxed, professional and fun from the word go. Brendan Sheppard steered an extensive cast expertly and with good humour from the read-through onwards. The "tecchies" were great and to sit in the sound booth and hear some of the brill-sounding takes was very cool. And all this for a good cause!! (In addition to kudos and pride in being a part of the Doctor Who world) I wonder what that boy behind the sofa would say if he knew then what was in store years later?....Geronimo or Allons-y perhaps?!"

The Show:

The show will be raising money for Children in Need and will be an exclusive free to download production.

Sebastian J. Brook from Doctor Who Online explains:

“At DWO we’re always looking for new features to provide our 35,000+ daily visitors with, and when Brendan told me of his plans for ‘One Fine Time Lord’, it was clear that this was going to be a real treat for Doctor Who fans worldwide. What better way to celebrate the 50th Anniversary than with a brand new audio story made for fans, by fans - and the greatest part is it’s all for Children In Need”

Want to attend the FREE Premiere event?

If you would like tickets to attend the premiere event being held at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge on the 14th of November email us for tickets. Tickets are EXTREMELY limited, drinks and refreshments will be provided after the event at The Bakers public house in Cambridge. As we are expecting a large amount of ticket requests but have very limited spaces, please state how many you would like for the event and all requests will go into a lottery, (you are limited to a maximum request of 2 per person).

To order your tickets please email: onefinetimelordtickets@gmail.com Put OFTL TICKETS in the subject section of the email.

The event is FREE to attend. Donations to Children In Need can be made during the evening or via the official BBC Children in Need website, or by calling 03457 332233.

+  Donate to Children In Need: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b008dk4b

+  DWO Adventures Facebook Group: www.facebook.com/groups/dwoadventures

[Source: Doctor Who Online]

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

Day 307: The Dæmons, Episode Two

Dear diary,

This is very suited to being the last story of the season, because it feels like the final day of school for the year where, instead of boring old lessons, the teachers stick on a film (When I left school, Pirates of the Caribbean had just been released on DVD and video, so it was always the film we saw. Problem was that each lesson was only an hour long, so I’ve seen the first half of that film more times that I care to count), and you get to spend the day out of uniform.

The Doctor and Jo have gone off on their own mission (as with the opening to The Mind of Evil, it’s lovely to see them pairing off without UNIT in tow to begin with, as it really helps their friendship seem more genuine than Jo simply being assigned to pass the Doctor test tubes), Benton and Yates have gone for a ride in the Brigadier’s helicopter and they’re both out of uniform, and the Brig himself has taken the night off and spent part of today’s episode tucked up in bed.

I think this is the kind of ‘UNIT era’ that I’ve always had in mind when picturing ‘the Pertwee Years’. Way back under The Invasion, when I complained that the UNIT of the 1970s was never as vast or well funded as it had been when fighting the Cybermen, this is what I was thinking of. Season Seven surprised me, but now we're firmly into the era of the 'cosy' UNIT, where a select few members of staff become our reliable buddies. I shouldn't really complain, because I do like Benton, Yates et al, but it just feels a bit more 'safe' than I'd like.

We're not all that far removed from Season Seven in some ways, though, because we seem to be in for a remake of Quatermass again (this time it's more Quatermass and the Pit that I'm thinking of). The final scenes in the mound where the Doctor and Jo discover a space ship buried where no one expects it started setting alarm bells off in my head, but I don't think that's a bad thing. For a start, I rather like Quatermass and the Pit (which is more than I can say for this story…)

Oh, no, that's not really fair. The Dæmons is just another one of those stories where there's nothing wrong with it, but I can't seem to understand why it's got such a massive reputation to it. There’s plenty of threat going on, with giant footprints stretching out across the landscape (and they look brilliant when viewed from the air!), vans (and sticks) bursting into flame as they try to approach the village, and the Doctor being out cold (ho ho!) for much of the episode, but it's just kind of happening. I'm not excited by any of it.

Still, it's early days, and perhaps watching a very autumnal episode with the sun blazing through the window from an unseasonably nice day isn't the best setting for the story. Perhaps tomorrow I'll wait until dark before tuning in…

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

Day 306: The Dæmons, Episode One

Dear diary,

If Colony in Space was interesting to me (well, to start with, anyway) because I knew next to nothing about it, then The Dæmons is interesting for almost the exact opposite reason. I've never seen this story, but I know it takes place in a small village, features the Master summoning up something akin to the devil, has a troublesome gargoyle on hand to keep UNIT busy, and ends with the church blowing up. I also know that it's considered to be one of Doctor Who's proper 'classics'.

That last fact worries me a little bit. Stone cold classics haven't always fared well with me during this marathon - The Evil of the Daleks and Fury From the Deep stand testament to that - and I'm also taking into account Nick Mellish's words on the subject, in which he described The Dæmons as 'the most over-rated Doctor Who story ever.' Sorry, Nick. There'll be a lynch mob at your door by morning. I'm quite glad to have these opposing viewpoints, because it means that I'm not going in completely wide-eyed and expecting things to be brilliant… which is a good job, really.

Now, don't get me wrong, this was a perfectly good episode, and there's a lot of rather nice little moments that I'll come to in a minute, but it wasn't a particularly Fantastic episode. Sometimes I find myself sitting forward on the sofa really gripped by that day's instalment, whereas today was more of a 'sitting back and watching' experience. That's not through lack of trying on the story's part, mind. The atmosphere is successfully built up throughout the 25 minutes, and it's genuinely quite tense by the time that the cliffhanger arrives. The fact that it features so much night-time location work simply adds to the atmosphere - it's still rare to see in Doctor Who of this age.

And what a pace it's moving at! I assumed somewhere around the middle of the episode that opening the Devil's Mound would be the cliffhanger to Episode Three, or possibly even Episode Four, but they've already gone and done it! They're racing ahead. Even the Master, who was fashionably late to the last story has gotten an awful lot done. His appearance here is handled much better than it was in Colony in Space, too, giving us a great reveal of him as the Reverend Magister. I'm going to assume - based on past form - that he plans to use Azal to destroy the world so that he can then rule over it. Or something.

The story isn't shy of being about 'the supernatural and all that magic stuff', as Jo puts it. In the opening moments, during establishing shots of the village being battered by a thunderstorm, we're given images of a frog, a cat, and an owl (also a dog, but that's less of a magical creature, traditionally…). Miss Hawthorne is shown calming the winds, and even Bessie is seen to move 'magically' around outside the Doctor's workshop (though this is later revealed to be the Doctor with a remote control). I'm not entirely sure how they're going to account for it all, since the series has always taken the stance that all 'magic' has a scientific explanation (indeed, that's what the Doctor says here, and I think this might be the first time that it's mentioned).

I'm going to assume that the most striking bit of 'magic' we see - the wind compelling a local policeman to attempt murder with the aid of a hefty rock - is somehow caused by the Master's hypnotism being somehow 'transmitted', but I'm looking forward to finding out. I bet the Doctor Who production team weren't popular this season, though. There were lots of complaints during Terror of the Autons about the policeman ripping his face off to reveal it was a monster, but I think this policeman gets the scarier job: it's a genuinely chilling moment to watch him robotically pick up the rock and lift it towards the back of Miss Hawthorne's head…

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

Day 305: Colony in Space, Episode Six

Dear diary,

Will Brooks and the Doctor Who Marathon.

Will Brooks sat his freshly-poured glass of Pepsi (other colas are available) down on the table, and settled on to his battered red sofa. Striking the space bar of the Mac, that day's episode started to play. As the titles played out, Will scribbled a note onto his sheet of blue note paper: 'Colony 6'.

Dutifully, Will had gone through a similar routine to this on many of the previous 304 days that year, working his way through the entire back catalogue of Doctor Who one episode a day. That journey had brought him to here, an episode in which not a great deal captures his imagination, and he's left with very little to write about for you fine people to read.

…I'm half tempted to add in a line about my 'pleasant, open face', but I've not shaved for a few days so it's not that pleasant. At the start of this story, I told you that I only knew a few things about it. Well, sort of knew a few things about it. Having now watched all six episodes, I've come out with a mixture of things I got right and things I got wrong. Good enough.

Thing is, several of the Pertwee stories represent the 'black holes' in my Doctor Who knowledge - Colony in Space just happens to be one of the more proficient gaps. This was perfectly proved about half way through today's episode, when the Master finally tells the Doctor why he's on this planet - because he wants to steal a 'doomsday weapon'. At this point I suddenly realised something - the Target novel Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon is a novelisation of this story.

Yeah, yeah, you all knew that. I get it. But I didn't! I thought that was a novelisation of The Mind of Evil, simply because the Doctor is trying to get his hands on… well… a doomsday device that will end the world! It's an easy mistake to make, I'm sure you'll agree. But then I started thinking about how odd it was to give the book that title.

Several of the early Targets use different names to the broadcast stories, but they normally go for some kind of key selling point, or something that neatly sums up the plot. Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters is a fairly spot on - if basic - way of describing Doctor Who and the Silurians. Doctor Who and the Daleks is a fab title for (you've guessed it) The Daleks. And who could fail to fall in love with Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster?

But the eponymous Doomsday Weapon doesn't turn up until the last episode of a six-part story! If you'd asked me to guess where this was going even as late as yesterday, I'm not sure I'd have predicted that they'd have a weapon capable of wiping out the Sun. It's a great idea and all, and the fact that it can put me in mind of an earlier plan by the Master means that he's at least being consistent in his ideas, even if he's doing it on a different scale now, but it does just sort of crop up. And then, just as quickly, it's gone. The Doctor is asked to destroy the device by pulling that really handy lever sticking out the top of the main control panel. Better hope no one ever pulls that by accident - bit of a design fault.

Oh, I think I'm just bitter. Colony in Space started off so well, and I was really enjoying it to begin with but by the time we'd reached the end here, I was just bored. The one moment that did make me sit up and take note was the Colonist's spaceship blowing up as they tried to take off (my notes on that moment are unpublishable on a family website), because I was shocked they'd had the sheer nerve to go through with it, but then it turns out they're all fine and well. Even the noble sacrifice Ashe made didn't reverse my slight disappointment that they'd mostly survived. Is that bad of me?

I think what surprised me the most was my reaction to Nick Courtney turning up again in the closing minutes. There's a danger of taking him for granted when he's simply there in every story, but seeing him arrive to welcome the Doctor back (well, sort of) raised a smile. I'm glad that we'll be seeing more of him in the next story…

1 November 2013

With the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who now less than a month away, BBC Worldwide is delighted to announce that over 40 additional guests from the classic era of Doctor Who have been added to the bill for the Doctor Who 50th Celebration which takes place at ExCeL London over the anniversary weekend.

They will join current Doctor Matt Smith and former Doctors Tom Baker, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy at the ultimate anniversary event, which will welcome over 20,000 fans of the world’s favourite Time Lord to the venue in east London.

First on the list of new names is Peter Davison, who played the role of the fifth Doctor from 1981-1984. Joining Peter at the event over the anniversary weekend will be cast from throughout the 50 year history of the show including the Director of An Unearthly Child (the first episode of Doctor Who), Waris Hussein. William Russell and Carole Ann Ford, who starred as companions Ian and Susan alongside the first Doctor - William Hartnell – will be attending on Saturday 23 November. 

Dick Mills (BBC Radiophonic Workshop), Mike Tucker and Mat Irvine (Classic Era Visual Effects) will also be on hand to facilitate some of the special features at the Celebration, which will be announced in more detail soon.

The Doctor Who 50th Celebration’s opening hours will also be extended on Saturday evening so visitors can enjoy a free 2D simulcast screening of The Day Of The Doctor together. Saturday attendees will be emailed shortly with details about how they can reserve a seat. Visitors should note that the screening will have limited availability and tickets will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

Additional line-up by day:

Friday 22nd November
Waris Hussein, Anneke Wills, Kate O’Mara, Richard Franklin, Matthew Waterhouse, Sarah Sutton, Terry Molloy, Gabriel Woolf, Barry Newbery, Michael Ferguson, Fiona Walker, Fiona Cumming and Ian Fraser.

Saturday 23rd November
Janet Fielding, Louise Jameson, Yee Jee Tso, Katy Manning, Carole Ann Ford, Geoffrey Beevers, Frazer Hines, William Russell, Nicola Bryant, Deborah Watling, Sophie Aldred, Daphne Ashbrook, David Collings, Terrance Dicks, and June Hudson. 

Sunday 24th November
Peter Purves, Mark Strickson, Bonnie Langford, John Leeson, Lalla Ward, Wendy Padbury, Maureen O’Brien, Michael Kilgarriff, Julian Glover, Stephen Thorne, David Graham, Donald Tosh, Anthony Read, Andrew Morgan and Andrew Cartmel.

[Source: BBC Worldwide]

31 October 2013

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Jonathan Morris

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: October 2013

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 31st October 2013

“November 1963, and the Soviet space programme reigns supreme. Having sent the first animals, then the first men beyond Earth's atmosphere, now they're sending a manned capsule into orbit around the Moon.

Just as Vostok Seven passes over into the dark side, however, its life support system fails. Only the intervention of the Sixth Doctor and Peri, adopting the identities of scientists from Moscow University, means that contact with the capsule is regained.

But something has happened to the cosmonaut on board. She appears to have lost her memory, and developed extreme claustrophobia. Maybe she’s not quite as human as she used to be…”

* * *

The year is 2013 here at the time of writing this, but it stubbornly remains 1963 in the land of Big Finish now, with this, the second of their 1963 Main Range trilogy, taking us to Russia, Earth and far beyond…

 

     Whereas Fanfare from the Common Men was nostalgic for the birth of The Beatles and the explosion of the huge cultural shift they were at the epicentre of, The Space Race is focussed instead on... well, on the space race.  Ahem.  It takes us far away from the cosy nostalgia of England, screaming fans and musical genius to Kazakhstan, espionage and scientific genius.  It all feels a bit more serious, a bit less cosy, a lot more dangerous, cloaking a landscape in which women and men aspire towards being the first to visit the Moon and beyond, to stake their claim upon the wider universe... if they can stop betraying and killing one another first.  At the heart of this tale of great aspiration is the petty mechanics of politics, and humanity’s shamefully cruel streak.  It makes a nice contrast and reminds you of both the best and worst that mankind has to offer simultaneously.

  

   It also manages to take a potentially really, really silly plot device, and make it both sad and terrifying, which is exactly what Doctor Who is so very good at.  It comes as no surprise to me that Jonathan Morris pulls it off so well here whilst writing an article in the 50th Anniversary celebratory edition of Doctor Who Magazine about the show’s quirks and central facets.  He knows his subject back to front, and plays it out somewhat beautifully.

 

     His script is well supported, too, by a great cast.  It almost goes without saying that Nicola Bryant and Colin Baker are both brilliant (but I’m going to say it here anyway, and hope it doesn’t come across as too sycophantic), but I was most impressed by Samantha Béart, who is so key to the story and walks the lines in just the right way.  That said, I loved her as Random in the final radio series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and, more recently before financial woes led to it being cancelled, the stage show of that same series, so it’s not such a surprise that she impressed me here, too.  It would be great to hear more of her in the future, so touch wood.

 

     It didn’t all work for me, I’ll be honest.  There’s a potential love interest for Peri, which is wrapped up rather clumsily, or rather not really at all: it just sort of stops without any consequence, which was a pity.  That said, it’d be hard to deal with that strand without annoying the continuity purists, so perhaps Morris was wise.  I know that there are still people out there, baying for poor Nev Fountain’s blood after writing the frankly marvellous The Kingmaker, which just goes to show that some people are wrong.

 

 

     What 1963: The Space Race really shows though is that Big Finish have chosen a good theme to work with, one with lots of potential and drama.  1963 was an important year for the world, not just for Who fans, and I’m intrigued to see how Big Finish wrap things up next month.

 

 

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

Day 304: Colony in Space, Episode Five

Dear diary,

I've wait it before, but one of the things I'm really enjoying about the Third Doctor's era is the sense of continuity. More now than perhaps any time since Season One, it feels like we're watching an unfolding tale, as things come back into play from recent episodes. We've already seen it on a couple of occasions this season, when the Doctor steals the dematerialisation circuit from the Master's TARDIS, and it's used as a bargaining tool (briefly) in the following story. Today, we get reminded that the Doctor still has a key to that TARDIS, and when he tells Jo that's where they're heading, she comments that she's not seen 'the Master's horse box' around here anywhere, acting as a nice callback to Terror of the Autons, which was quite a while ago when this was originally broadcast - we're almost right the way through the season from that one!

It serves as a nice chance to top up Jo's knowledge of life in the TARDIS as it was for companions before the Third Doctor. It makes sense for her to assume that it always looks like a police box, because the Doctor's TARDIS did when they arrived on this planet. Still, it's good to see them drawing attention to it all the same. It's a level of detail that I'd never realised existed in these stories before now, and which only really becomes obvious when doing a marathon.

And what a TARDIS they've found themselves in! The simple action of moving the doors to a position other than left of the screen has been a way to indicate that we're in a TARDIS belonging to another person since the very first time we saw another TARDIS (right back in The Time Meddler), but it really does work. On top of that, we see the outside of the doors while we're inside the console room. At first, I wondered if we were seeing something we shouldn't, but no! It's actually been planned! Of course, it only works because the Master has disguised his machine as a much larger space ship, but it's still a bizarre thing to see - and it really sells the idea to me of this being a more advanced model!

Further in to the console room and it's all gone a bit wrong. I complained yesterday that the Master pretending he was an adjudicator made him look like some kind of middle-management figure, and a row of filing cabinets in the main room of his ship - filled with information about mining, no less! - doesn't really help to make him seem cool again. There's more hints of the obnoxiously 1970s design creeping into the set here, too. On the other hand, we get to see the printed roundel wall forming a major part of the Master's control room, so at least they're getting their money's worth from it before the retirement!

More importantly, though, it's the return of the Sonic Screwdriver! Hooray! After its brief appearance as a 'door handle' in Inferno, the device has been strangely absent from the Doctor's bag of tricks, so it's nice to have it back again. And this is the closest to the tool we all think of as being the Sonic than we've ever seen. Here, the Doctor uses it to study the alarm in the Master's TARDIS, and deduce that there's a convenient gap at the bottom for them to crawl under (he then proceeds to snap at Jo to keep 'flat to the floor' while he sort of shuffles though at whatever height he fancies).

You'll have no doubt have noticed that I'm focussing all my attentions today on a single scene from the episode, and not a lot else, and that's simply because I don't really have a lot else. The Doctor complained in the last story that he's some sort of yo-yo, and the same isn't far wrong for this story - the IMC ship is forced to leave the planet. They stay. A struggle ensues and they decide to leave. Following a scene out in space (with, it has to be said, a great planet model and some of the better CSO this story has to offer), they decide to head back down to the planet again.

Even the Doctor is at it, heading back and forth from the Master's TARDIS to the colony and the City - the whole story could do with a bit of a trim. I was hoping that the Master turning up might be enough to keep from boredom setting in, but sadly, it doesn't seem to be doing the trick…

31 October 2013
 a

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

Day 304: Colony in Space, Episode Five

Dear diary,

I've wait it before, but one of the things I'm really enjoying about the Third Doctor's era is the sense of continuity. More now than perhaps any time since Season One, it feels like we're watching an unfolding tale, as things come back into play from recent episodes. We've already seen it on a couple of occasions this season, when the Doctor steals the dematerialisation circuit from the Master's TARDIS, and it's used as a bargaining tool (briefly) in the following story. Today, we get reminded that the Doctor still has a key to that TARDIS, and when he tells Jo that's where they're heading, she comments that she's not seen 'the Master's horse box' around here anywhere, acting as a nice callback to Terror of the Autons, which was quite a while ago when this was originally broadcast - we're almost right the way through the season from that one!

It serves as a nice chance to top up Jo's knowledge of life in the TARDIS as it was for companions before the Third Doctor. It makes sense for her to assume that it always looks like a police box, because the Doctor's TARDIS did when they arrived on this planet. Still, it's good to see them drawing attention to it all the same. It's a level of detail that I'd never realised existed in these stories before now, and which only really becomes obvious when doing a marathon.

And what a TARDIS they've found themselves in! The simple action of moving the doors to a position other than left of the screen has been a way to indicate that we're in a TARDIS belonging to another person since the very first time we saw another TARDIS (right back in The Time Meddler), but it really does work. On top of that, we see the outside of the doors while we're inside the console room. At first, I wondered if we were seeing something we shouldn't, but no! It's actually been planned! Of course, it only works because the Master has disguised his machine as a much larger space ship, but it's still a bizarre thing to see - and it really sells the idea to me of this being a more advanced model!

Further in to the console room and it's all gone a bit wrong. I complained yesterday that the Master pretending he was an adjudicator made him look like some kind of middle-management figure, and a row of filing cabinets in the main room of his ship - filled with information about mining, no less! - doesn't really help to make him seem cool again. There's more hints of the obnoxiously 1970s design creeping into the set here, too. On the other hand, we get to see the printed roundel wall forming a major part of the Master's control room, so at least they're getting their money's worth from it before the retirement!

More importantly, though, it's the return of the Sonic Screwdriver! Hooray! After its brief appearance as a 'door handle' in Inferno, the device has been strangely absent from the Doctor's bag of tricks, so it's nice to have it back again. And this is the closest to the tool we all think of as being the Sonic than we've ever seen. Here, the Doctor uses it to study the alarm in the Master's TARDIS, and deduce that there's a convenient gap at the bottom for them to crawl under (he then proceeds to snap at Jo to keep 'flat to the floor' while he sort of shuffles though at whatever height he fancies).

You'll have no doubt have noticed that I'm focussing all my attentions today on a single scene from the episode, and not a lot else, and that's simply because I don't really have a lot else. The Doctor complained in the last story that he's some sort of yo-yo, and the same isn't far wrong for this story - the IMC ship is forced to leave the planet. They stay. A struggle ensues and they decide to leave. Following a scene out in space (with, it has to be said, a great planet model and some of the better CSO this story has to offer), they decide to head back down to the planet again.

Even the Doctor is at it, heading back and forth from the Master's TARDIS to the colony and the City - the whole story could do with a bit of a trim. I was hoping that the Master turning up might be enough to keep from boredom setting in, but sadly, it doesn't seem to be doing the trick…

31 October 2013

Doctor Who Magazine have finally launched a digital edition of the magazine in the UK!

The magazine as well as a few back issues can now be bought as an app through Apple's AppStore, which ties into the Newsstand app.

DWO caught up with DWM editor, Tom Spilsbury, who had the following to say about the new format:

"We're delighted to bring DWM to a digital audience. The magazine continues to grow its sales, so this will help us expand our audience further.

Fear not, though, if you prefer to read the physical magazine - this is designed to complement the physical version, not to replace it. We're sure that the digital version of DWM will help readers all over the world keep up to date with the latest adventures of the Doctor. 

We're hoping to put up a year's worth of back issues in the first instance. If it proves popular, we may go back further.”

+  Download the DWM App on iTunes for FREE!
+  Subscribe to DWM from just £18.49 via Unique Magazines!
+  Subscribe Worldwide to DWM for just £85.00 via CompareTheDalek!

+  Check Out The DWO Guide to Doctor Who Magazine!

[Source: Doctor Who Magazine]

30 October 2013

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

Day 303: Colony in Space, Episode Four

Dear diary,

You know how sometimes you meet someone and they’re just cool. Effortlessly calm, and collected, and fun, and just… cool. Usually when you meet someone like this you’re either jealous of them or you simply hate them. They always have the right line to say at just the right moment. The person you fancy would much rather be with them. They’ve literally rolled out of bed and left the house that morning, but they look fantastic without even trying. That was The Master when he first appeared in Terror of the Autons.

While the Doctor was blowing up the TARDIS again at a garishly decorated UNIT HQ (that awful green door made a comeback at the start of this story – please tell me that this is the last time we’ll see it?), being hassled by the Brigadier, and getting his experiments ruined by Jo, the Master has just swanned onto Earth in a fully-functional TARDIS, and hypnotised the first person he meets into doing his bidding. He even gets that first line spot on – ‘I am usually referred to as the Master’.

The thing with those naturally ‘cool’ people is that at some point it all falls apart. There comes a time when you realise that – actually – they’re just like you. They haven’t just rolled out of bed, but spent two hours getting the right look. They don’t know the right thing to say all the time, they just happened to be on form that day. Eventually, you have ‘the moment’ where you see through the cool exterior and see the real person.

It feels a bit like that’s happened today with the Master. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing him in the back of luxury cars lighting up a cigar and using other people to do his dirty work because he’s got such a strong power of persuasion. But then today we see him at what appears to simply be his job. He confirms to the Doctor that he’s not really the adjudicator (of course), but we get several scenes of him just getting on with the job of impersonation and he comes across as some sort of boring middle-management type.

Even the direction has stopped trying to make him look cool. His arrival is briefly treated as a secret, being shot from behind as he enters the colony, and with an extra large collar so that we don’t accidentally spot the back of his head (although the second he arrived on the scene I’d figured out it must be him – we were running out of time for him to turn up!), I thought we were in for a great reveal where the Doctor walks in, the adjudicator turns around and… dun dun dunnnn!

But no. Having built up the suspense a little during his approach to the building and his first meeting with Ashe, we then simply cut to a shot of him inside. There’s not even a ‘turning around’ shot: he’s already done it! It’s a pity, because this feels like the point that the master officially stops being cool. He was already in danger of losing some mojo when every story boiled down asking the Doctor for help because he’d overlooked an element of the plan, but this just finalises it.

Things might start to pick up once the story gets back underway. Much of today’s episode seems to boil down to the Doctor and Jo being captured and escaping, and then once they’re done with that, we go for a debate between the scientists and IMC, before ending with a battle, because it just wouldn’t be a Pertwee episode without some kind of action sequence. Now that all the elements have been introduced, things might start looking up again…

5/10 
29 October 2013
 a

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

Day 302: Colony in Space, Episode Three

Dear diary,

The one thing that I was entirely certain of about this story has yet to occur – I’m still waiting for the Master to turn up. It’s a shame that I know he’s in every one of the Season Eight stories, because it means I’ve been watching these last few days just waiting for one of the characters to rip off their face, revealing it as a clever disguise for the Doctor’s new arch enemy. At first I thought it might be the colony’s leader (he has a beard!). Then I assumed it might be Norton, especially when he turned out to be working for IMC. Or perhaps he’s the captain of the ship, and he’s being so ruthless because he needs something from this mining mission? At one point today, when one of the ‘natives’ looked particularly like a man in a costume, I thought he might whip off the mask and greet Jo. I’ve now decided that he’s either a) playing the part of the adjudicator, and is on his way to the planet, or b) hanging out in the natives’ hidden city. Knowing him, he’s probably their king by now.

While it means that I’m spending a few of the quieter sections of the story wondering when he’s going to be turning up, I think the story is going to need the Master before too long. If this were a four-parter, we’d be at the point of going out quite well. Episode One introduced us to the colonists. Episode Two brought in IMC. Episode Three has seen the colonists rising up against IMC. It wouldn’t surprise me if Episode Four saw the Doctor brokering an alliance between the colonists and the natives, and IMC being booted off the planet. I could go along with that. It wouldn’t leave the story as any kind of ‘classic’, but it would be a slightly above average example of Doctor Who.

Knowing that there’s still another three episodes to go makes it all seem like far more of a slog. I don’t know if there’s enough story left to fill out 75 more minutes, but having the Master turn up to complicate matters may help to hide that fact somewhat. I’m glad that we’ve been able to have a good few episodes without him, though, as it really does feel like a well-needed breather from his dodgy schemes.

I’m still slightly surprised how much this feels like a ‘first story’ for Jo, despite the fact that she’s been a part of the programme for a while now. Seeing her first trip out to an alien world gives us a new angle for looking at the character, and her reaction to the TARDIS going missing is brilliant. The Doctor’s fairly laid back about it, but then he’s used to losing the ship. Heck, in Season One, most stories featured him getting separated from the TARDIS within the first five minutes, by a tomb door, or a forcefield, or someone stealing the lock. If anything, he is slightly more worried by it here than we usually see (or, at least, he bangs on about it a lot more), but maybe that’s because the Time Lords brought him here? He’s not used to being this out of control of the situation, and he’s probably worried that they’ll strand him there.

For Jo, the TARDIS has always simply been an old police box (she even admits in the first episode of this story that she didn’t really believe that the Doctor could use it to traverse time and space), but now she’s suddenly found that it’s her only link back to Earth, and their only way of escaping the planet. It’s nice to see that she doesn’t simply accept it because she’s been a companion for a while – it makes her seem all the more real. I’d imagine that she just gets used to the idea of travelling to other worlds after this, so it’s good to see them starting of by being a bit different.

But she just happens to have taken a course in escapology once which helps her escape the handcuffs? really? Did she take it at the same school she failed her science qualification?

29 October 2013

The BBC Media Centre has issued a new press release for Mark Gatiss' upcoming Doctor Who origins drama; 'An Adventure In Space And Time'.

Introduction:

This special one-off drama travels back in time to 1963 to see how the beloved Doctor Who was first brought to the screen.

Actor William Hartnell felt trapped by a succession of hard-man roles. Wannabe producer Verity Lambert was frustrated by the TV industry’s glass ceiling. Both of them were to find unlikely hope and unexpected challenges in the form of a Saturday tea-time drama, time travel and monsters!

Allied with a team of brilliant people, they went on to create the longest-running science fiction series ever, now celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Written by Mark Gatiss

Executive produced by Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat and Caroline Skinner

Directed by Terry McDonough

Starring David Bradley (William Hartnell); Jessica Raine (Verity Lambert); Sacha Dhawan (Waris Hussein); Lesley Manville (Heather Hartnell) and Brian Cox (Sydney Newman).

Interviews:

Interview with Mark Gatiss

What can viewers expect from the drama?

Principally, it's the story of how Doctor Who was created, so we concentrate on the very beginnings and the first few episodes. There are lots of treats for the fans but it's also the story of William Hartnell, the first Doctor and how the part transformed his life.

Why did you want to tell this story?

I'm a life-long Doctor Who fan and the origins of this beloved show have always fascinated me. But, above all, I wanted it to strike a chord on a human level. These were brilliant, complex, talented people making something revolutionary. And, in William Hartnell, we have the very affecting story of a man redeemed by the role of a lifetime who then, sadly, had to let it go. I think we can all relate to something like that in our lives.

What was the casting process like? Did you set out to find such good lookalikes?

I'd had David Bradley in mind for some years but it wasn't simply a question of a good likeness! David is such a fine and delicate actor, I knew he'd find something wonderful in the part. With everyone else, I stressed that we must first and foremost get the right people for the job. But it turned out the right people also bear the most amazing resemblances to the originals! Costume and make-up, of course, played a huge part in that.

Could you explain a little bit about the research process?

Doctor Who is probably unique in terms of TV shows in that its history has been exhaustively researched for years. Happily, this means that there are lots of interviews existing with people who are no longer with us. I'd wanted to tell the story for years – I sort of grew up with it. How no-one wanted the Daleks. About the first episode going out just after JFK was shot. But I wanted to get deeper than just the details of production and find the human story. I conducted new interviews with a lot of the original cast and crew. They were all hugely enthusiastic and very helpful.

Did you uncover any facts or information that you didn’t previously know as a Doctor Who fan?

A few bits and bobs but, as I say, most of it is very well documented now! It was very touching, though, to talk to people about a part of their loves that was often very happy and to discuss people long gone.

There were so many people involved in the show’s beginnings, why did you decide to focus on the four central characters of Hartnell, Newman and Lambert and Hussein?

I had to focus it down. Simple as that. This is a drama, not a documentary, and though it's extremely painful to have to leave out some people who played a huge part, it makes dramatic sense. You simply can't do everyone justice in 90 minutes. For instance, the story of how Terry Nation and Ray Cusick created the Daleks is almost a film all on its own! Jeff Rawle plays Mervyn Pinfield, who was the Associate Producer, and his character sort of absorbs several others including Donald Wilson and the brilliant David Whitaker – the first script editor - whose contribution was immeasurable.

Set in the 1960s the drama brings to life that era through the costumes, hair and make-up and the sets, including the first ever TARDIS console. What was it like being on set?

It was extraordinary. To see the original TARDIS recreated genuinely took my breath away and everyone who came to the set had the same reaction. It was frequently quite uncanny. We used some of the original Marconi cameras and, on the black and white monitors, seeing David, Jemma, Jamie and Claudia was like looking back through Time. Spooky and very moving.

Finally, what do you hope audiences take away from the drama?

This is my love-letter to Doctor Who! In this 50th anniversary year, I hope fans will enjoy and be thrilled by it and all the kisses to the past it's laden with. But my greatest wish is that it appeals to people who know very little or nothing about Doctor Who and see the struggle of talented people (almost) accidentally creating a legend!

Interview with David Bradley (William Hartnell)

Acclaimed actor David Bradley talks here about taking on the portrayal of an actor he greatly admired and transforming himself into the Doctor.

A popular screen star, well regarded by his peers, William Hartnell was born in St Pancras, London in 1908. He appeared in numerous plays, films and TV shows, often playing the ‘tough guy’ role as typified by his character in the comedy ‘The Army Game’, which ran from 1957 to 1961, just prior to Doctor Who.

When he was first approached, Hartnell was widely reported to have been unconvinced by the role of Doctor.

“It has to be said”, explains David, “after some initial reluctance to do something for children’s TV, I think he was quickly convinced that it was the right thing for him to do. He felt quite insecure about it as it was new territory for him, but once he started he embraced the whole idea of the part."

An Adventure In Space And Time tells the story behind the beginnings of Doctor Who and the team of personalities behind it. Known as a perfectionist, Hartnell was widely regarded as cantankerous by colleagues. But as David explains the script for ‘Space And Time’ reveals a full picture of Bill, including the good and the bad.

“I know he had a reputation at times for being cantankerous and rather difficult and one has to play that”, says David.

“It was clear from research and hearing his colleagues talk about him that he was a perfectionist. He demanded a lot of himself and he expected everyone around him to show the same level of commitment.”

Hartnell played the role from 1963 until 1966, creating the template for the character of the Doctor, which has since been played by 10 other actors. He embraced all that embodied the show, as David explains, “He was invited to school fetes in the full outfit and I thought how brilliant and touching that was. It’s clear that he absolutely loved it and found it very hard to let go. That’s an element that Mark Gatiss brings out in the script."

Deteriorating health led Hartnell to finally retire from the role, but as his illness worsened, so too did his relationship with the production team of Doctor Who.

“I think maybe when people joined the show later”, explains David, “different directors and different actors, if they showed a lack of commitment then it would upset him and he would let people know that’s how he felt. There are moments of sadness in ‘Space And Time’ where he becomes aware that he hasn’t got the strength to do it anymore.”

David grew up with the show (“I remember Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee best”) and recently starred opposite current Doctor Matt Smith. Does he see any of Hartnell’s characteristics in Smith?

“I really admire him as a Doctor”, says David, “he’s got that curiosity and that slight eccentricity that the part requires, not in the same way as Bill Hartnell, but I think some of those characteristics have gone all the way through everyone that's played the Doctor.”

So how would David sum up his experience taking on one of TV’s most iconic roles?

“It’s been one of those great jobs and an experience I’ll always remember. We’re honouring something that’s been part of television history for 50 years and I hope I’ve done justice to an actor that I admire greatly," he concludes.

Interview with Jessica Raine (Verity Lambert)

Star of Call The Midwife, Jessica Raine takes on the role of Verity Lambert, the first female drama producer at the BBC and the first ever producer of Doctor Who. Here she explains what it was like stepping in to the shoes of such a formidable woman and the importance of making sure they showed the fun side of Verity.

“She was very strong willed, very compassionate and very warm,” Jessica is talking enthusiastically about Verity. “As the first female drama producer at the BBC she had to be very determined,” she continues. “She had a real fire in her belly about projects she believed in.”

Verity Lambert began her career at the BBC in June 1963 having followed ABC’s former head of drama, Sydney Newman to the corporation. Lambert oversaw the first two seasons of Doctor Who, eventually leaving in 1965. It has since become the project she is most famed for.

In An Adventure In Space And Time one of our first introductions to Verity is at a swinging Sixties house party, which according to Jessica shows the lesser known fun side of the producer.

“We concentrate more on her work, but we do get a little slither of the fun side of Verity,” says Jessica. “Apparently she used to hold these art parties and invite the artist and all of her mates around and have a sort of exhibition, a bit of music and a bit of dancing.”

Well known amongst Doctor Who fans, Sydney Newman once described her as full of ‘piss and vinegar’ and claimed hiring her was one of the best things he ever did.

So what research did Jessica do to prepare for the role?

“For any role I pretty much always go to the script, first and foremost. While I was auditioning I did look for video clips, but they were all from recent years, she explains, but it was interesting to see her. I felt she was very composed, very classy, very warm, but you could see real steel there. I also watched the original episode that Verity, Waris and Sydney, to a certain extent, created and I was really struck by how it holds its own," she explains. "It’s eerie, weird, intriguing and it’s incredible that they were able to do that on such a miniscule budget.”

Playing such a formidable character, does Jessica see any similarities between herself and Verity?

“I guess I didn’t quite realise how determined I was to act, I really did plug away for it for a while, so I suppose I am in a way. I like that Verity’s got quite a twinkle in her eye. It would be very flattering if anyone compared me to her.”

Telling the story of the genesis of Doctor Who and the many personalities involved, An Adventure In Space And Time sums up a moment in television history and the start of the world’s longest-running science fiction series.

“I think it encapsulates a time in the Sixties when we’re on the brink of this huge change - and it does it really subtly," explains Jessica. "We’ve got Verity Lambert walking in to the BBC, who is a woman. We’ve got Waris Hussein, the first Indian director at the BBC. The stakes are very high and that reflects what was going on in society at the time."

Apart from reflecting the societal changes at the time the drama explores the origins of one of the world's most recognisable monsters, The Daleks.

“I actually do remember being really afraid of the Daleks”, explains Jessica. “I was just terrified of their horrible voice which I always equated with the voice on the tube. We used to go up to London, because I was from the countryside, for a London weekend and the tube voice, 'mind the gap' used to always remind me of the Daleks so it was just a terrifying experience!”

Interview with Brian Cox (Sydney Newman)

Taking on the role of the BBC’s head of drama, Brian talks here about working at Television Centre in the 1960s and the colourful force of nature that was Sydney Newman.

Newman joined the BBC after a successful stint at ABC. Joining the corporation in 1962, his love of science fiction soon led to the creation of Doctor Who as the corporation looked to find a programme to fill a 25 minute tea-time slot.

“Sydney Newman was a formidable force in television,” explains Brian. “He started at ABC and kind of revolutionised drama. I first worked at the BBC in 1965 and did my first ever television play, ‘A Knight In Tarnished Armour’ and Sydney was there and I actually met him very briefly. You could always spot Sydney in the BBC Club because of his brightly coloured cravats and waistcoats. And his personality was the same!”

We first meet Newman in An Adventure In Space And Time as he strides in to TVC, ignoring the security guards calls to show his pass walking away with 'That’s not how we do it at the BBC, sir' ringing in his ears.

But as Brian explains, Sydney was very different to others at the Corporation.

“The BBC was very stuffy, says Brian. There were very good producers and directors, but it was all done by the board and delegation committee, and lots of memos. Sydney had a very different approach, a hands on approach, and I think that’s what made him unique. He brought a breath of fresh air.”

As well as being very passionate about his projects, Newman also had a knack for spotting a hit and delegating. He trusted those he appointed to do the work and gave them second chances. This is evident in ‘Space And Time’ which reveals that despite rumblings of criticisms about producer Verity Lambert’s overspending and hating the first try at the premiere episode of Doctor Who, he gave his team another shot.

“He had them reshoot the whole of the first episode of Doctor Who because he didn’t think it was quite right,” explains Brian. “I think he was very revolutionary, I think he really did create a standard.”

Trying to find a tea-time family show, Newman was clear there should be no ‘bug eyed monsters’. He hated the idea of the Daleks, but as we see in ‘Space And Time’ on seeing their success he was happy to admit he was wrong.

“Ultimately he was a populist,” explains Brian. “He believed in making drama popular. I think he took forward the original Director-General, Lord Reith’s philosophy in wanting to get the best possible drama to the maximum number of people.”

So does Brian see any similarities with Newman?

“I think there’s something very positive about Sydney and he was a force going against the norm of the day. In a sense, I’m very empathetic to him; he’s very much my kind of guy,” he concludes.

Interview with Sacha Dhawan (Waris Hussein)

Sacha Dhawan takes on the role of the director of the first episodes of Doctor Who, Waris Hussein. Here he talks about how An Adventure In Space And Time deals with the challenges Waris faced as the first Indian-born drama director at the BBC and using music from the Sixties to get his swagger.

Born in India, Hussein was the first Indian director at the BBC. He directed the premiere Doctor Who story, An Unearthly Child, and returned to the series in 1964. A graduate of Cambridge, Hussein was faced with a number of tests when he joined the BBC and like Hartnell, was not particularly enthused by the idea of directing a show for children.

“There were definitely challenges for Waris at the time, but I think in the longer term it made him a better director,” explains Sacha. “And I think Doctor Who was one of those projects that gave him immense confidence.”

Following on from Doctor Who, Hussein went on to have a long career directing a variety of projects from ‘A Passage To India’ to ‘Shoulder To Shoulder’.

As well as touching on the issues of being an Indian director at the BBC in the 1960s, the drama explores the bond between Hussein and the producer Verity Lambert, who struck up a strong friendship and who became a committed team. He went on to work with Lambert on several other productions after Doctor Who.

To research the role, Sacha spent a lot of time with Waris, first meeting him at a public screening of the episodes he directed.

“He is quite a specific character and I wanted to make sure that I played him as truthfully as possible,” explains Sacha. “He has a particular way of speaking as well, which I really wanted to hone in on.”

“We were a bit kind of weird with each other; we were both studying, looking at one another. He was looking at me thinking ‘You’re watching everything I’m doing aren’t you?’, but we hit it off straight away,” he says.

Hussein attended one of the first scenes Sacha filmed showing Lambert and Hussein in the BBC club. “He started welling up and getting quite moved by it,” says Sacha. ”I hope that was in a good way and not a bad one, but I think he seemed happy.”

Sacha was excited to tackle a period setting he’d never done before. “When I first read the script, it was the era that really excited me. I’d never done anything in this kind of genre. The 1960s is so cool; I love the set and the clothes. As soon as you wear them, you act in a certain way; you walk in a different way.”

And to get in to the right frame of mind Sacha dipped in to his music collection: “I listened to loads of Sixties music on the way to work, to get a certain kind of swagger,” he explains.

So how would he sum up ‘Space And Time’?

“I think it appeals to those who aren’t necessarily Doctor Who fans. I was very moved by the script, particularly William Hartnell’s journey, which I relate to as an actor myself,” he concludes.

+  An Adventure In Space And Time will broadcast on BBC One in November.
+  An Adventure In Space And Time will broadcast on ABC1 in Australia on 24th November @ 8:45pm

[Source: BBC Media Centre]

28 October 2013

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

Day 301: Colony in Space, Episode Two

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

27 October 2013

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

Day 300: Colony in Space, Episode One

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 October 2013

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

Day 299: The Claws of Axos, Episode Four

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 October 2013

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

Day 298: The Claws of Axos, Episode Three

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 October 2013
 Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Nicholas Briggs

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: October 2013

Reviewed by: Matthew Davis for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 25th October 2013

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s to the next 50 years...

24 October 2013
 a

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

Day 297: The Claws of Axos, Episode Two

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24 October 2013

Manufacturer: The Wand Company Ltd

RRP: £69.99

Release Date: October 2013

Reviewed by: Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 24th October 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[With thanks to Firebox]

<mce:script

23 October 2013
 a

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

Day 296: The Claws of Axos, Episode One

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22 October 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

**Time to be confirmed. 

[Source: BBC Worldwide]

22 October 2013
 a

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

Day 295: The Mind of Evil, Episode Six

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

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

21 October 2013
 a

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

Day 294: The Mind of Evil, Episode Five

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

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

And also a little bit stupid.

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

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