Time Lord Tees

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18 October 2013
 a

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

Day 291: The Mind of Evil, Episode Two

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

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

18 October 2013

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

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

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

Cecelia Aherne said:

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

Jake Arnott adds:

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

Joanne Harris says:

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

AL Kennedy said:

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

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

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

Nick Harkaway added:

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

Publishing Schedule:

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Source: BBC Books]

18 October 2013

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

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

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

NZ Mint chief executive Simon Harding says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Source: New Zealand Mint]

17 October 2013
 a

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

Day 290: The Mind of Evil, Episode One

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16 October 2013
 a

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

Day 289: Terror of the Autons, Episode Four

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

16 October 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Source: Unicover]

<mce:script

16 October 2013

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

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

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

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

Also this issue:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+  Check Out The DWO Guide to Doctor Who Magazine!

[Source: Doctor Who Magazine]

16 October 2013

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

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

[Source: BBC]

15 October 2013
 a

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

Day 288: Terror of the Autons, Episode Three

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

14 October 2013
 a

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

Day 287: Terror of the Autons, Episode Two

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 October 2013
 a

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

Day 286: Terror of the Autons, Episode One

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 285: Inferno, Episode Seven

Dear diary,

Is it just me, or is the Doctor’s return to his regular universe all a bit… sudden? I said yesterday that I was surprised he didn’t leave them behind during the cliffhanger, but today…! We get the reprise, the Doctor shouts that he can’t try to get the console working because there isn’t enough power yet. Petra screams out for Greg as they all turn and watch the lava flow towards the open door…

And then the Doctor wakes up. Back in his regular universe. There’s none of the odd sparkly effect to indicate that he’s moving between dimensions, no shot of him fading away complete with car and console. It’s a bit jarring, and I’m not sure if it leaves me feeling like I’ve been wrenched out of the parallel universe in a good way that makes it seem as though it’s suddenly ‘ended’ or if it’s just left me feeling a bit out of place. I would have at least expected the screen to white out…

Still, the story doesn’t give you enough time to really focus on it, and there’s a lot packed into these final 25 minutes. It helps to really keep the pace up, and rounds out the tale nicely. I was really worried that when the Doctor returned, we’d be stuck with a ‘cuddly’ Brigadier to highlight the differences between him and the Brigade Leader, but he’s as much of an obstacle to the Doctor as anyone in the other world. Having watched time run out for the planet once in this story, it feels almost inconceivable that no one is really listening to the Doctor’s warnings, but you can see why everyone thinks he’s simply unwell – the Doctor comes across as a complete lunatic here. When he bursts into the control room of the drilling project and starts to smash up the equipment, you can almost agree with the Brigadier when the order is given to take the Time Lord away.

It feels like a theme that’s been running through this entire season – the Doctor and the Brigadier locking horns. The final scene, in which the Doctor announces that he’s had enough of the man before attempting to take off with the TARDIS console (again!) could well serve as a good coda to this era – I’m guessing that we’ll start to see a real change in their approaches with each other from now on.

That scene also makes for a fairly good farewell to Liz Shaw. It’s never really bothered me before that she simply disappears between Seasons Seven and Eight, but having spent a month in her company, I’ve been completely won over. It was suggested to me before I started on this season that I should swap the running order of The Ambassadors of Death and this story, as it made her departure more natural. I can’t say I can see how that would have been the case, and the fact that some of the Doctor’s final words to her today are ‘Goodbye, Liz. I shall miss you’ makes this feel like just the right way to watch the stories. I’m also pleased that we get such a lovely shot of the pair hugging once the drill has been stopped, and the Earth has been saved. The final image of the story – and the season – is one of Liz laughing, which seems entirely appropriate.

I’m pleased to report that – as you’ll no doubt have noticed over the last few weeks – I’ve been completely surprised by the start of the Pertwee era. I’ve spent such a long time not looking forward to this part of the marathon, but it’s really good! I’m past the three-seven-part-stories-in-a-row phase that seemed like such a stumbling block before (and, indeed, that’s the end of seven-part stories completely! A form for the programme since the second story, it’s all six-parters and less from here on out, with the exception of Trial of a Time Lord, depending how you look at it), and now that I’m sold on Jon Pertwee’s performance in a way I never have been I think I’m really excited for the next phase of the programme. Here’s hoping it’s as good as this season has generally been…

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

Day 284: Inferno, Episode Six

Dear diary,

I'm really pleased to see that aside from this story, Don Houghton also wrote The Mind of Evil for Season Eight. As I've noted, I'm less familiar with this period of Doctor Who history than I was with the 1960s, so as we start saying goodbye to writers like David Whitaker, it's nice to know that there's new people like Houghton and Robert Holmes stepping in, ready to take up the reigns.

Today's episode, much like the rest of the story, is absolutely filled with brilliant dialogue. Once again, my notes seem to comprise every third line from the script, and I've had to carefully pick and choose which ones are worth my attention when I come to write this entry up. I think it's fair to say that there is a standout winner from today, and it's the Doctor' comment upon seeing Sutton's reaction to the TARDIS console - 'What did you expect? Some kind of space rocket with Batman at the controls?' I hope they have Batman in the parallel universe.

It's fitting that we should get to see so much of the console in this story, especially towards the end of today's episode. Inferno marks the last appearance of the console built way back in 1963 for An Unearthly Child. I've never really tracked the evolution of the machine as I've gone along, but looking at it in some of the shots today, you can clearly see that it's full of bits and pieces I've seen before. Even if I've not been making a point of picking up on it, there's been a kind of subconscious thread linking these first three Doctors together in the form of this console.

I'm sure I commented on it right at the start of Season One, but that original design for the TARDIS real did hit the ground running. I know that Doctor Who never had the budget to constantly update and renew the design (though I think it gets a few makeovers before Pertwee hands in the keys to the police box), but there's a reason they stuck to this basic template for the entire classic run. As much as I love the current console room, I really do like this one. I must make a point of visiting the Doctor Who Experience again to see the replica of this console - they added it only a few days after my last visit!

I'm really pleased that I've enjoyed today's episode as much as this. Having really loved the addition of the parallel world a few days ago when it first turned up, the last few instalments haven't quite gripped me in the same way. Now that we're ready to transfer back to Earth A, I'm finding myself reluctant to say goodbye to this reality! It's been another great example of the Doctor changing people just by being in their presence, and it's nice that he was there in their final moments. I was expecting the episode to conclude with the Doctor vanishing again, so I'm hoping these few characters don't get let down by having to stick around for a few minutes at the start of the next episode.

By the same token, I'm really glad that the Doctor's only headed 'home' for the last 25 minutes of the story. I worried that we'd have to spend a few episodes watching him try to convince Stahlman that they needed to stop the drilling, and that we'd simply end up with a rehash of the last few days. With such a tight timeframe to finish up in, I'm hopeful that the tension will really carry through for the last little push.

Just briefly - it's a return to my monitoring of the Sonic Screwdriver. It turned up earlier in the story being used as a door handle to the Doctor's temporary lab, and now we see that Liz has her own (technically, she was seen using one the other day, but I wasn't sure if it might have been the same device. Now I know he's got one in the parallel world, the one in her bag must be a copy for Liz!) It's still not referred to as being a Sonic Screwdriver, though we get confirmation that the Doctor invented it - a rose by any other name? I'm wondering if Liz might be helping the Doctor to refine the design of it. She is a scientist, after all, and he's been tinkering with it for two whole seasons, now. We're drawing closer and closer to the point where it will become the all-purpose tool we know it as today, so I'm loving the idea that it might have taken a companion's touch to get it to the final stage!

11 October 2013

Nine previously missing episodes of Doctor Who from the 1960s, which have not been seen for over 45 years, have been discovered and will launch exclusively on iTunes Today.

BBC Worldwide announced the find at a press event yesterday, which DWO attended, and we're delighted to announce that nine recordings from the 1960s featuring missing episodes of Doctor Who, were recovered in Nigeria, Africa, and subsequently returned to the BBC.

The episodes were discovered by Phillip Morris, director of Television International Enterprises Archive, by the tracking records of overseas shipments made by the BBC containing tapes for transmission. BBC Worldwide has re-mastered these episodes to restore them to the fantastic quality that audiences expect from Doctor Who.

The stories recovered are The Enemy of the World (1967) and The Web of Fear (1968) - both starring Patrick Troughton as The Second Doctor.

The Enemy of the World, is the fourth six-part tale of Series 5 which first aired on the BBC in December 1967. Episodes 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 had been missing from the BBC archives. 

Alongside Patrick Troughton who plays both the Time Lord and his antagonist (Ramon Salamander) are his companions Frazer Hines (Jamie) and Deborah Watling (Victoria).

Also recovered is the 1968 six-part story, The Web of Fear. Episodes 2-6 were feared lost forever but now episodes 2, 4, 5, and 6 have been recovered. Unfortunately, episode three is still currently missing but a restoration team has reconstructed this part of the story using a selection of the 37 images that were available from the episode along with the original audio which has been restored. 

Also starring Patrick Troughton alongside Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling, The Web of Fear introduces Nicholas Courtney for the first time as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart (who later returns as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart). 

All episodes are available to download exclusively from iTunes from today (links at the bottom of this article). The Enemy of the World will also be available to preorder exclusively on DVD from BBC Shop from 11th October for release on 22nd November. The Web of Fear will be available on DVD on 24th February 2013. DWO have been given the preview for the Limited Edition DVD cover which you can see in the right-hand image column.

Phillip Morris says:

“The tapes had been left gathering dust in a store room at a television relay station in Nigeria. I remember wiping the dust off the masking tape on the canisters and my heart missed a beat as I saw the words ‘Doctor Who’. When I read the story code I realised I’d found something pretty special.”

Fiona Eastwood, Director of Consumer Products, BBC Worldwide comments:

“We are thrilled with the recent discovery of The Web of Fear and The Enemy of the World and we’re very happy to be launching re-mastered versions of these treasured episodes to fans as we celebrate the 50th year of Doctor Who.”

The Press Event

The press event itself kicked off with a statement by Philip Morris, read out by TIEA archive coordinator, Roy Robinson, in which Morris thanked the BBC and Doctor Who fans for their support. This was then followed by a short video presentation by Philip Morris, explaining the story behind the recent finds, and conveying his own childhood memories of Doctor Who.

The room then went dark as Episode One of The Enemy Of The World was shown. It was a surreal experience - actually sitting down to watch brand new, yet old, Doctor Who - unseen for over 45 years! We were quite blown away by the opening scenes on the beach, with helicopters, hovercraft and long johns - and all in the first five minutes! Every moment was filled with joy as the episode unfolded and we got to see Patrick Troughton's dual performance as The Doctor and Salamander.

After the episode had aired, Mark Gatiss introduced Episode Two of The Web Of Fear, citing it perfectly as "the quintessential Doctor Who story that's also the most British thing you could imagine".

On a personal note, this was the story that we were *really* excited to see. To actually see the Yeti / Great Intelligence in action in the London Underground was really special. Interestingly, The Doctor only featured in the recap at the beginning of the episode, and doesn't show up at all in Episode Two - one of the first true examples of a Doctor-lite episode!

After a 10-minute break, we re-entered the screening room for a Q&A with Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling and Mark Gatiss. Below are some highlights:

Total TV Guide: (To Frazer and Deborah) Do you remember doing the scenes?
Deborah: Watching it just now, I knew the next lines!
Frazer: Yeh, but you didn't know them at the time on set, did you?!

Daily Telegraph: (To Frazer and Deborah) What made Patrick Troughton's performance so special?
Deborah: He had a wonderful sense of humour and a twinkle in the eye, but he was also a very, very good actor. We all got on so well and we were like a family. We had a chemistry, and I think it showed today.

Doctor Who Online: (To Frazer and Deborah) Did you keep any mementos from either of the two stories?
Deborah: I had one of the ornamental Yeti's but it broke in the middle, so Andrew Beech was kind enough to fix it for me.
Frazer: eBay! - I also had one of the Yeti's - and space glasses, but my mother told me to throw it all away, so I did.

BBC Worldwide have provided DWO with some trailers and clips from The Enemy Of The World and The Web Of Fear, which you can watch below.

The Enemy Of The World - iTunes Trailer


The Enemy Of The World - 'Long Johns' Clip


The Web Of Fear - iTunes Trailer


The Web Of Fear - 'Pyramid' Clip

As a final treat, DWO caught up with Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon) and Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield) who recorded a special video greeting for our visitors:


+  Download The Enemy Of The World for £9.99 via iTunes in the UK.
+  Download The Enemy Of The World for $9.99 via iTunes in the USA.
+  Preorder The Enemy Of The World DVD on BBC Shop for just £13.99!

+  Download The Web Of Fear for £9.99 via iTunes in the UK.
+  Download The Web Of Fear for $9.99 via iTunes in the USA.
+  Preorder The Web Of Fear DVD on BBC Shop for just £13.99!

+  Follow Doctor Who Online on Twitter (@DrWhoOnline)!

[Many thanks to Chris, Phil, Emma and the rest of the BBC Worldwide Team]

[Sources: BBC WorldwideDoctor Who Online]

10 October 2013

To celebrate Doctor Who entering its 50th anniversary year, Watch launch an exclusive landmark season of programming - ‘Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited’. A must-watch for all Doctor Who fans, the show takes viewers back in time to relive the most magical moments of one of the UK’s most loved TV shows.

From Saturday 12th October Watch will air a series of eleven 30 minute special BBC Worldwide commissions of Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited. These UK premiers will feature the story behind each Doctor, alongside footage from their era. The channel has gathered together the very best programmes into a Doctor Who themed collection, providing a specially curated selection of stories that are perfect for fans and newcomers to the show. 

Running in chorological order from The First doctor William Hartnell to the most current Matt Smith, each episode includes an introduction by current Lead Writer and Executive Producer Steven Moffat and also features contributions from past Doctors including Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, David Tennant and Matt Smith alongside guest stars and writers including John Barrowman, Hugh Bonneville and Neil Gaiman. 

The kind folks over at Watch have sent DWO an exclusive clip which you can watch below:

[Source: Taylor Herring PR]

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

Day 283: Inferno, Episode Five

Dear diary,

The first half of today's episode is fairly talk-y, with little action. In the past, episodes like this have come in for both praise and criticism during this marathon, and I'm not entirely where this one sits. On the one hand, it's beautifully done. The way that the volcanic noises carry on in the background for so long that they just disappear into the back of your mind is fantastic - every now and then the noise creeps up a little, and you find yourself caught up in the methodic rhythm. It really helps to sell the idea that we've passed the point of no return and that there's no hope for saving this world.

I'm so pleased that they're using the parallel world format to tell an interesting story. It's not simply about meeting up with 'evil' versions of all our regular characters (although the lack of moustache on the Brigade Leader, and the absence of Professor Stahlman's beard suggests that facial hair in alternate dimensions of the Doctor Who universe works in the opposite way to those in the Star Trek franchise!), but rather a chance for the production team to blow up the Earth - really! - without actually endangering the programme's future.

I think I've worked out (roughly) where things will be headed from here, so I'm treating all the guest cast as though they're on borrowed time. What's going to be interesting is to see how much of what happens on this world also occurs in the regular one. For the sake of ease, I'm going to call the regular World 'Earth A' and the Republic 'Earth B'. 'The Petra of Earth B is a lot colder than the one we saw on Earth A, even if they do share similar traits, just emphasised in different ways. Despite that, in the moment of crisis, she's turned to Sutton for comfort. WIll we see that happening once the Doctor gets back to Earth A? Will the technicians all end up being transformed into monsters in our world? Will Sir Keith make it out alive? The only thing I assume it's fair to say is that Benton won't be turning into a Primord in both realities, though.

It's nice to see the Doctor demonstrating the TARDIS console to Liz and the Brigade Leader by pulling the same 'moving a few seconds into the future' trick that was seen back at the start of The Ambassadors of Death. More and more, I'm finding little moments like this that help Season Seven to feel as though it's one big story. In some ways, it's the closest in tone to the 21st century version of the series that we've seen from the classic show so far - taking seemingly insignificant moments and seeding them throughout the entire series.

To that end, it's almost a shame that we don't get a few more of these little references. I wondered back in Doctor Who and the Silurians (to myself, rather than in my entry - it felt like a silly thing to say then, but perfectly right for now!) if it would have been fun to see Masters among the government officials on display at Madame Tussaud's. Equally, I thought the same about Sir James in the last story, and I think having Stahlman there could have been fun for this tale, too. It would be equally nice to have the mentions in this story about the government being so desperate for Stahlman's project to succeed be because of the loss of the Wenley Moor facility. Suddenly, with that one blown up, there's going to be more pressure on the National Grid!

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

Day 282, Inferno, Episode Four

Dear diary,

One of the things I loved about yesterday’s episode was that we weren’t simply plunged right into the parallel world. We get a few minutes in the regular setting first, with the Brigadier and Liz hunting for their absent colleague. It means that we get a little bit of time to re-establish the situation, before everything gets turned on its head. We get to see Sir Keith making threatening a trip to the ministry and make his formal complaints, and generally catch up with the rest of events.

It means that when we get to the parallel world and discover that their version of Sir Keith was killed in a (highly suspicious) car accident en route to the ministry, it chimes with us – because we know that’s where our chap is now heading. I have to admit that I’d assumed we’d be stuck in this alternate universe for a while now, right up until the Doctor crosses back over to ours. It came as a bit of a surprise, then, when the screen blurred and we entered back into the sparkly void between realities.

If anything, it was slightly odd. Even after such a relatively short period of time, I’ve gotten used to Liz with her dark hair, so when we emerge back into a real close up of the Liz we’ve known since the start of the season, it didn’t look quite right. It’s a shame that the return to our regular world ends up as a bit of a rehash from yesterday. Sir Keith pops up to remind us that he’s not dead and that he’s got a car outside to take him to London. Liz and the Brigadier hunt around for the Doctor. Nothing all that much happens, and before you know it, we’re back in the Republic.

It’s funny just how much I’ve been drawn into this parallel world, but I think it’s a testament to just how well realised it is, and how fantastic the performances are. Nick Courtney is so easy to love that I have to make a conscious decision to not praise him every day, but he’s especially good toward the cliffhanger today, when he orders the Doctor around and then pulls a gun on him. The one thing that perhaps lets it down a little is that he spends a few minutes strutting around in front of his soldiers as the tension is being ramped up, and it’s perhaps a bit too casual. The Brigade Leader has a carefree side!

I am very impressed by the handling of today’s cliffhanger in general. The presence of a definite ‘end’ point for the action (in this case a countdown) is usually a troubling sign – I’m thinking specifically of Vengeance on Varos, where they move slowly towards the image of a dying Doctor on the monitor before the voice comes though ‘and cut it… now!’, before we linger a few more seconds! It robs that cliffhanger of all the tension, and I worried the same might happen here. As it is, we get the final number of the countdown spoken over the image of the closing credits. Anything could be happening in that control room!

Speaking of the control room – how great is that set? For a start, it’s huge, and split into several areas. You get the impression when characters move from all the contros to the drilling room that they really have covered a lot of ground. It’s great to see so many supporting artists in there, too, all decked out in their lab coats and going about their business. There’s a shot in today’s episode where Pertwee walks over to one of the control panels to play with a few settings, and there’s loads of other people around him getting on with their job. It makes the place seem real, with a lot going on, and it’s as though every member of ‘staff’ has a role to play.

We used to get a similar format quite often in the Troughton Era, where the action revolves around one ‘main’ set with a few smaller ones dotted around (I think the best example is probably in The Moonbase, where I praised the set for reasons very similar to those I’ve mentioned today.)

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

Day 281: Inferno, Episode Three

Dear diary,

I always used to find it so strange that Doctor Who waited seven years and fifty-something adventures before it went for that old sci-fi cliché, the ‘parallel universe’, but actually, having been through everything that comes before Inferno, it suddenly makes complete sense. Even though we’ve been in a different location for each story this season, they’ve all felt relatively close together. Trapping the Doctor on Earth, and giving him a wider circle of acquaintances (People can’t even agree on whether Sara Kingdom is a companion, so I doubt there’s any hope of getting all of UNIT added to the list!) means that when we follow him across the sparkly void and into the alternate universe, there’s a real impact to it.

That’s not to say that it couldn’t have worked to see the Doctor confronted by an evil version of Ian and Barbara, but if you set it out on some far-flung alien world, there’s far less of an impact. The Stahlman project, on the outside, looks just like the location from The Ambassadors of Death. Wasn’t the Brigadier chasing someone over some very similar gangways (though much closer to the ground) a few episodes ago? It’s not even that far removed from the location we see used as the factory in Spearhead From Space, which was previously used for The Invasion. I think that’s the big success of this story – it’s taking something which is readily in danger of simply becoming normal for Doctor Who, and it turns it completely on its head.

The same thing is being done to UNIT. When the Doctor emerges from what should be his lab, and a soldier starts to shoot at him, it genuinely feels unnerving. It’s why I’m so pleased that Benton turned up at the tale end of The Ambassadors of Death - I know that he’s a big part of the UNIT ‘family’, because I’m coming to this story more than 40 years after the fact, but today’s cliffhanger doesn’t pack half as much of a punch if it’s simply that Sergeant who turned up two episodes ago threatening the Doctor.

I’m not sure that the Doctor has too much to fear from his former friends here, though, because as in the last story UNIT are absolutely terrible. They spend several minutes chasing after the Doctor and taking shots at him (it has to be said that the chase scene in this story is far more thrilling than many of the action set pieces in the last one – hooray for the return of Douglas Camfield!), and then manage to completely lose him. As soon as they spotted people up high on the roof, I was willing to bet a considerable amount of money that they’d hit the infected soldier rather than our misplaced Time Lord.

One of the things that’s really impressing me is just how much back story about this parallel universe has already been seeded in, without it feeling like a massive info dump. I knew that we’d be seeing an alternate world in this story (I’ve head the eyepatch story enough times to recite it backwards!), but I didn’t know anything really about it. Right from the moment the Doctor arrives in this new world, we’re given lots of hints about this place. From the poster on the wall of his lab – ‘Unity is Strength’, a phrase which instantly says ‘totalitarian regime’ to anyone who’s read Orwell’s 1984 - to the odd symbols on the door of the lab. Even the Doctor lingers to give both a puzzled look, making sure that we get plenty of opportunities to take it all in.

(While I’m on the subject, there’s another one of those ridiculous things that I want to praise. The symbol stuck to the door of the ‘lab’ is all battered up. Now, I know it’s simply because the BBC props men have been lugging it around for a while before sticking it up onto the door, but it has the effect of making it look like the sign has been there for ages. I know it’s a stupid thing to draw attention to, but I’d not have been surprised to find that everything added to the sets to denote them as being from the parallel world looked brand new…)

We’re given lots of beautiful dialogue between the Doctor and the Brigade Leader to help establish the kind of world we’ve ended up in, too. My favourite is possibly the moment that the Brigadier describes the ‘Republic’ and the Doctor asks what’s happened to the Royal Family. He’s cut off mid sentence, simply told that they were executed. All of them.'

Perhaps my absolute favourite piece of dialogue from today's episode - possibly from the season so far - is the Brigade Leader's response to the Doctor's protests that he 'doesn't exist' in this world - 'then you won't feel the bullets when we shoot you.' Brilliant!

8 October 2013

The BBC has today confirmed plans to launch a +1 channel for BBC One.

Speaking at a BBC conference today, BBC Director General, Tony Hall said:

“Any plan for channels starts with BBC One. Above all, BBC One needs to be on top form. It has to be the nation’s favourite channel, but also its bravest. We’ll also look to launch a BBC One +1 channel, too – it’s what audiences expect, especially younger ones, and it means people can get more of what they’ve already paid for.”

Charlotte Moore, Controller of BBC One, added:

"This is brilliant news for BBC One viewers, it means the content we pay for delivers even more value for audiences. In a world of increased choice, +1 will enable licence fee payers to have even more access to our broad range of programmes every day."

This is good news for Doctor Who as not only will episodes be available to watch for those who may miss the original time slot airing, but the ratings of the +1 channel will count towards the ratings totals for the week - as is currently the case with ITV1. The decision means there will be an even playing field as far as ratings go, and we should once more see Doctor Who at the very top of the weekly programming figures.

[Source: BBC Media Centre]

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

Day 280: Inferno, Episode Two

Dear diary,

There’s a danger that I’m just going to end up repeating myself here, but frankly I’m so surprised by it that it really does bear repeating – I’m finding myself completely won over by the Third Doctor. I spoke yesterday about the fact that he was so willing to use UNIT as a way of getting access to the drilling project simply so that he could steal power (and let’s be honest, that’s exactly what he’s doing!) and try to get the TARDIS working again.

I really love the idea that he only works with UNIT because he’s stuck on Earth and he needs something to be doing. Today’s episode makes it almost quite dark – there’s a very real danger that everyone on this drilling project could be dead before long. There’s at least one person roaming the site murdering for no apparent reason. The Doctor has seen the effect of getting to close to those people who are infected (though he follows a primordial UNIT soldier across the gangways for a while, then seemingly forgets all about this!), and knows the danger of drilling down this deep – heck they’ve already come close to wiping themselves out.

And yet when Professor Stahlman cuts his power and manages to dispose of the computer circuit before the Brigadier can be alerted to the danger the man poses… the Doctor simply leaves. He announces that he could be doing something better with his time anyway, and heads off to tinker with the TARDIS some more. He even goes as far as to lie to Liz simply to get her out of the way while he makes a runner. It really does feel like a return to the personality that Hartnell’s Doctor had right back at the very beginning, when he was willing to kidnap people just to stop them revealing the secret of the TARDIS, or endanger them all to satisfy his own curiosity. I’m imagining that the Doctor will mellow and grow to accept his current lot (I always remember him as enjoying his time with UNIT, but maybe that’s simply my lack of affinity with this era), but for now it’s creating a really interesting dynamic.

It works pretty well when you give Pertwee some great guest characters to play off, too. He really works brilliantly opposite Olaf Pooley as Stahlman, and you can quite easily believe that the pair would wind each other up no end. Even Nick Courtney, who’s always on the top of his game, seems to be turning in an especially good performance here. The only problem I’ve got with the cast is that every time Christopher Benjamin turns up on screen, I find myself loudly saying ‘Henry Gordon Jago!’ to an empty room, especially having finished the Sixth Season of Jago & Litefoot just this morning.

This feels like a good time to heap some praise on Caroline John, too, considering that this is her last story. Liz has always been one of those companions I’ve never really had much time for. She’s only in four stories (Well, five if you count The Five Doctors, I suppose), and they’re from this era of the programme that I’ve never paid that much attention to. Up until this story, I was more-or-less ready to claim that – despite how good she might be – Liz wasn’t really a companion. She’s far more independent than a companion would usually be, and she’s really got her own life outside of the Doctor.

I think it’s helped by the whole format of Season Seven. Because the Doctor and Liz are having all their adventures within comfortable driving distance from London, you get the impression that Liz goes home to her flat at the end of each day, while the Doctor spends his time underneath St Pancras station, trying to kick start the TARDIS. When this story started, I was going to concede my point and suggest that maybe she was a companion, simply on the basis that she’s his friend, and he’s specifically asked her to help with his escape attempt (there’s implication in Episode One of this story that she’s been helping him with these ‘experiments’ for a while). As it is, though, he’s simply using her – he needs that extra knowledge on hand if he’s in with any chance of making the console work, and he’s willing to get her out of the way if he thinks she’ll get in the way of him making a break for it.

I’m going to keep the jury out on Liz’s companion status for the rest of this story, but I’m glad that there’s a new depth to it. Just like the new slightly morally ambiguous Doctor, it’s a fresh dynamic for the programme, and it’s really helped to freshen things up following the trend of companions all being a bit samey towards the end of the 1960s (no matter how much I ended up loving Zoe!)

7 October 2013

After many months of speculation, the BBC is now tantalisingly close to officially announcing the discovery of missing episodes of Doctor Who from the 1960's.

Following yesterdays (inaccurate) report from The Mirror newspaper (quoting from the original Sunday People article) that "106 Doctor Who Episodes have been uncovered in Ethiopia", DWO took to Twitter to clarify some of the misleading details, simply stating missing episodes had been found, but that the BBC will announce it officially in due course:

Radio Times then took it upon themselves to scoop the waiting media with further details by reporting that newly discovered lost episodes are being prepared for digital release this week. The article suggested that two missing episodes will be released on Wednesday, before quickly removing reference to the number two and the word 'episodes' - suggesting it could be whole stories.

Their amended statement now reads:

"BBC Worldwide will put the previously lost episodes from different stories – both believed to be from the Patrick Troughton era – for sale on digital platforms such as iTunes from Wednesday, RadioTimes.com understands. They are believed to originate from a haul discovered in Africa and have been digitally remastered for sale, although exact details remain sketchy."

Online speculation has been rife, with many rumours circulating that the two stories to be released will be 'The Web Of Fear' and 'The Enemy Of The World' - both featuring Patrick Troughton as The Doctor. There are also reports that the First Doctor adventure, 'Marco Polo' could also be announced.

It is also widely believed that beyond the imminent announcement, that further episodes have been recovered and will be announced at a later date.

Members of the press have been invited to attend a press conference this week which will officially confirm the news.

It is expected that an in-depth feature covering the discovery of the missing episodes will appear in an upcoming issue of Doctor Who Magazine.

Which two, missing Doctor Who stories would you like to be announced have been found this week? Post your choices in the comments box below! 

+  Follow Doctor Who Online on Twitter (@DrWhoOnline)!

+  Follow Doctor Who Magazine on Twitter (@DWMTweets)!

[Sources: Radio Times; The MirrorDoctor Who Online]

6 October 2013
 a

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

Day 279: Inferno, Episode One

Dear diary,

'This isn't an oil rig,' Petra points out early in this episode. What they're drilling for isn't anything like North Sea gas, we're later told. And yet… I'm watching Fury From the Deep! There's the drilling project, a mysterious substance from the deep, a person in charge who's adamant that the project can't be shut down (there it was because Robson didn't want to ruin his record for continuous drilling, while here Professor Stahlman doesn't want any delays to the schedule.) As if there were any doubt left, we get the first appearance of the Sonic Screwdriver in a Third Doctor story*!

And yet, whereas Fury From the Deep bored me at the time, being made up of so many elements that we'd seen too recently, here it feels like greeting some old friends, and I'm actually excited by them! That's not to say that Inferno isn't showing signs of repetition - there's a number of elements present in this episode that seem to be cropping up a lot during Season Seven, but I don't think I've had time to grow weary of them yet.

I think what's interested me the most about all this is the way that the Doctor and the brigadier interact with each other. During Doctor Who and the Silurians, I praised the way that they didn't exactly see eye-to-eye over how to deal with the threat. They were a bit more chummy in the last story (though only just), but they still don't seem to be the best of friends here. While I think they do respect each other, they're more 'colleagues' than 'friends'.

The way the Doctor strolls into the Brigadier's makeshift office suggests that the pair haven't seen each other for a little while. The same scene goes on to confirm that while Liz may 'have the misfortune of working for [UNIT]', the Doctor is a 'free agent'. The implication at the end of Spearhead From Space was very much that the Doctor was going to be employed on a permanent basis to the organisation - he even got Bessie as a company car! - but here we get to find out a little more about their arrangement.

I rather like the idea that he's not simply tied to working for the Brigadier, and that he's simply using UNIT as an excuse to get access into this drilling project. It gives the Doctor a kind of selfish edge that we've not seen much of since right back in the early days of Season One. There was a flash of it at the very start of Pertwee's tenure, when he tries to take off in the TARDIS during the Nestene invasion, but I thought that had all died down by now.

I'm also finding more and more that I love his outfit. I've never really thought all that much about the Third Doctor's costume - it's always been a lot of different coloured velvet jackets and capes for me - but it really does suit him in this season. There's a point when it's described as 'fancy dress', but he does cut a very definite figure amongst all the other people in the control room. I'm hoping that I'll keep being drawn to it when we start seeing all the variants creep in.

It's becoming apparent that Pertwee seems to have a particular clause in his contract, though. Every story of the season has given him an opportunity to gurn away, and today's episode is no exception. Having said that, the scene where he's thrown into the 'limbo' and the image distorts as he seemingly cries with pain is really effective - it's putting him into another situation we're not used to seeing, and making the threat seem very apparent. Forget the werewolves running around and killing people - it's the Doctor's own experiments which are causing the danger right now…

*Yeah, yeah, I know he doesn't call it the Sonic Screwdriver (he actually says 'it's only a door handle'), but we all know that it is…

5 October 2013

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

Day 278: The Ambassadors of Death, Episode Seven

Dear diary,

One of the ways that I've been trying to keep myself amused though out this story is trying to figure out which - if any - of the characters might be working for Torchwood. It was always going to be tricky when the series introduced the Torchwood Institute. An organisation created in the Victorian era, with objectives to defend the Earth, scavenge technology for the good of the British Empire, and to capture the Doctor if he ever set foot back on british soil. An organisation which, presumably, was on the hunt for the Doctor during the time he spent trapped on Earth, and working for an organisation pretty similar to theirs.

During The Web of Fear, I picked out the member of Torchwood based solely on the fact that he had an outrageously strong Welsh accent, and was acting a little bit shifty. For The Ambassadors of Death, I've decided that General Carrington is our man from the rival organisation, at least in part. He's spent the last few episodes banging on about his 'moral duty' and seems determined to shoot down the alien vessel in case it poses some kind of threat to the planet - it's a stave that's pretty in keeping with Torchwood's appearances from Series Two of the modern series.

We also get plenty of references to the fact that he's gone off the deep end and is quite possibly mad. Therefore, I'm choosing to believe that he was placed on Mars Probe Six as part of some Torchwood mission (maybe to put some kind of tracking equipment up in orbit? I can't say I've given it that much thought), but instead ended up in contact with the race from which our titular Ambassadors hail. His exposure to them has somewhat warped his mind, meaning that he's gone rogue from Torchwood and decided to use them to unveil aliens to the world via the live TV broadcast we see in this episode - ready then to have their ship obliterated. He's taken away at the end of the story, presumably to be court-marshalled by whoever's in charge of the Institute.

Mind you, I'd be a bit sceptical about having him led away by a single soldier. It has to be said that based on this story alone - UNIT are rubbish. I've already commented about that scene from the first episode in which they're caught up in a big fight and seem to be doing pretty badly for the most part, but today they gat another chase at a shoot-out… and they still muck it up! Their enemy is out of ammunition. They've surrendered. They're still able to over power the two soldiers and drag the fight on that little bit longer.

The only one to come out from all this well is the Brigadier, who does look quite impressive when he's right in the middle of a battle. Nicholas Courtney has a specific 'look' (you know the one), and it just seems to fit in brilliantly. I've not had much chance to praise him since we moved into colour, so it's nice to see him getting some of the action in this story.

On the whole, I'm sorry to say that I'm just really disappointed by The Ambassadors of Death. Having enjoyed the last story so much more than I thought I would, this had the potential to be a real winner. Inferno is another one of those ones that I know precious little about, apart from the fact that it's got a supposedly golden reputation. here's hoping it can win me back round after this one…

4 October 2013
 a

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

Day 277: The Ambassadors of Death, Episode Six

Dear diary,

So there we have it! The truth about General Carrington! The problem is, I'd been sort of guessing this for a while, now, and it's not the most interesting of reveals. On the plus side, it does seem to even out my debate as to how many different groups there are working together - it looks like it is three, but Carrington works for one and is the shady paymaster of another.

Still, even if the reveal isn't the most interesting thing the series has ever given us, the cliffhanger itself is pretty good. The Doctor's often threatened at gunpoint (has already has been in this story), but the gun isn't usually so close to the Doctor's nose!

I'm sorry to say that I'm still not massively enjoying The Ambassadors of Death. Things have picked up a bit today, but I think my interest dropped too long ago - it's too much of an up-hill climb to try and get back into it now. For a while, when the Doctor was taken aboard the giant clam and encountered the astronauts all safe and well, I did think that things were going to start turning around for me. It was fresh, it was exciting, but then, it was right back down to Earth, so we could carry on with the story at a snail's pace once more.

Something I do have to wonder about this story could potentially be opening a bit of a can of worms. I'll be discussing the actual placement of the UNIT stories further down the line, once I've seen enough of them to make up my mind properly, but The Ambassadors of Death seems to be the first real hint we've had that this isn't as contemporary as I might like to think.

At the time, the Doctor Who production team intended that the Third Doctor's adventures would be taking place in the near future. The Radio Times write up for The Invasion specified the story as taking place in 1975, which would put these tales in the late 1970s at the earliest. Aside from a few bits of equipment seen in the last few stories, I've not had any real reason to assume that the stories aren't simply set an the time of broadcast, but today we've got a full on British Space Programme!

I'd be tempted to simply say that in the Doctor Who universe, things are a little different to the way that they are in the real world, but by the time of The Christmas Invasion we're sending probes up to Mars that are nowhere near as advanced as the manned missions we're seeing here - and they're now on the seventh one! I'm not going to be opening the big can of worms today, but I am wondering what people generally think on the subject - are the UNIT stories set at the time of broadcast or are they set later?

Leave a comment, or head over to the 50 Year Diary Facebook page and let me know - I'll be discussing it all at some point, I'm sure!

3 October 2013

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

Day 276: The Ambassadors of Death, Episode Five

Dear diary,

'Can't you hurry it up a bit?' the Doctor snaps as he sits awaiting his trip into space. I think that's a fairly good line to sum up this whole story. Things have shifted a bit for me now - I'm no longer simply failing to connect with The Ambassadors of Death, I'm actively bored by it, and that's not something that you ever want to say about an episode of Doctor Who.

As we counted down to the Doctor's lift-off, I quickly assumed that today's cliffhanger would be a shot of him heading away from the planet. No. Then we started to get some sabotage, so I figured that maybe it would be a closing shot of the Space Centre finding out about the interference. No. Maybe it would be the moment of blast off, but with the rocket exploding? No. Oh, but they can't steer the ship via remote control and the Doctor could end up shot into the sun! That must be the cliffhanger! Nope. 'We don't really know what's in there,' Cornish warns the Doctor as he moves to enter the Mars probe. Right then, the cliffhanger must surely be that the probe is empty? No! We may never know, because all of a sudden there's an unidentified object closing in on the Doctor at high speed - and it's going to hit!

It's not so much the fact that the cliffhanger is sudden and from nowhere, bur more that it felt as though it took forever to actually get to one. It's almost as though The Ambassadors of Death has the ability to actually warp and slow down time around it.

Oh, ok, that's not entirely fair. There are a few things to like about today's episode. For a start, the 'astronaut' looming over the Doctor in Sir James' office really does look pretty sinister. I don't know what it is about a space suit - that odd mixture of something so familiar and yet still very alien - that really works for a Doctor Who story. It's no wonder that Steven Moffat has used them on a few occasions to inject fear into the series, be it with a skeleton inside or simply someone capable of 'killing' the Doctor.

And then we've got the return of Benton for the first time since The Invasion. He'll become a regular fixture in UNIT over the next few years, so it's perhaps odd that I've not actually noted his absence from the last two stories. All the same, it's nice to have him back, and looking after Doctor Lennox so well. I'm pleased to see the return of Cyril Shaps to the series, too, considering he was in The Tomb of the Cybermen, still my favourite story. When he first appeared a few days ago, I instantly saw him as Viner from the other story, but I've taken to him as Lennox now. His fear in the cell is very real, and you can’t help but feel for him. The idea of sitting down to dinner and finding an isotope waiting for him is striking, too, though I do hope he gets to have a chat with the Brigadier (unlikely, I think!)

 

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