Time Lord Tees

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

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

E-Mail NewsE-Mail Reviews
23 July 2014

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

Day 569: Warrior’s Gate, Episode One

Dear diary,

Warrior’s Gate. I know I’ve seen it (or at least some of it - I have a distinct memory of the Doctor sitting in one of the chairs at that table in the main hall, and possibly an axe falling towards him, I think...), but I really couldn’t tell you anything about it. Yes, it’s one of those stories that I’ve watched before but not paid attention to. Either that, or it just simply failed to stick in my mind to any real degree.

I’m guessing that it’s probably not that latter option, though, because right from the start of this episode, the story is wildly different to anything that Doctor Who has ever given us before. We open with a wonderfully long shot, which guides us through several rooms of a spaceship. It makes this set feel genuinely huge, even though it probably isn’t. Even when we finally do move to a new shot, it’s all done with fades, and all the subsequent parts of the opening follow the same pattern of having the cameras glide around the set, showing us everything and creating an almost dream-like quality. There’s a lovely film called Russian Ark, which is all filmed in one single, continuous shot, and this is very reminiscent of that*, creating a lovely - slightly surreal - dream-like start to the story.

That’s quite a fitting way to start the story, really, because it’s a story set in the nowhere between our universe and E-Space. In theory, there’s no time here, no up or down... it seems only right that we should start the first episode of such a story by being given something so unlike the programme’s usual stock. It’s really quite a nice place to set a story, but it’s a pity that everything happening in this nowhere is just a bit... dull. There’s nothing that’s really grabbing me once those initial shots are out of the way.

Romana spends the whole episode trapped inside the console room trying to repair broken equipment... which she also had to do for the first episode of Meglos (where she was also repairing K9, though there her stay in the ship was extended by a time loop), and she spends a vast amount of time during Full Circle stuck in the TARDIS, too. No wonder she’s off before the end of this story! Elsewhere, we’ve got a space ship filled with not especially stand-out characters, and they’re bickering about broken equipment, too. There’s a slight bit of interest injected by the fact that their ‘navigator’ seems to be slightly more unusual, but I’m finding it hard to connect with any of their scenes, either.

Thankfully, what does appeal to me are all the scenes later on in the episode, when our lion man (and, latterly, the Doctor) make their way through a ruined archway into some kind of abandoned castle. It’s back to being slightly surreal again, unlike the cookie-cutter scenes elsewhere, and it’s piqued my interest enough to salvage the episode a little. I’m hoping that the rest of the story will spend more time exploring this location, and continuing down the path of the slightly unusual elements of the story...

*While I’m mentioning it, Russian Ark really is worth checking out, if you get a chance. It’s all in - surprise, surprise - Russian, but there are subtitles. It’s a time travel story, and it’s all filmed in the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. It runs about an hour and a half in one continuous take, and it’s such an unusual experience, but somewhat magical and enchanting. Certainly, if you enjoy that kind of thing, it’s very much worth tracking the film down. 

22 July 2014

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

Day 568: State of Decay, Episode Four

Dear diary,

Um... Ok, well, let’s start with the positives. Despite what the general opinion among several friends seems to be, I rather like the shot of the Great Vampire’s hand reaching up through the ground. What I mean to say is that during that initial shot of it doing so, it actually look quite effective. Certainly, it’s not a bad shot. It does rather fall to pieces once our three villains are CSO’s in front of a less well realised example of the scene, but that initial moment of breaking through the earth is rather good, so there.

No, I’m more put off by the Doctor’s X-Ray of the area (which seems to somewhat miss the way that an X-Ray works, but ho-hum), revealing what appears to be a poor quality rubber bat model representing the greatest and most powerful foe that the famous Time Lords have ever encountered. For some reason, in my head, I had the Great Vampire down as being a lot more Nosferatu-esque in design. Perhaps fittingly now that John Nathan-Turner is in the producer’s chair, ‘the memory cheats’.

Overall, I think that the model work in this episode is probably one of the weakest points. The shot of the tower breaking apart as one of the ships takes off isn’t the best model shot that the programme has ever given us, and it took me right out of the entire climax. I don’t think it helps that everything moves a little bit too quickly for my liking. The Doctor rounds up the rebels and prepares to lead an attack on the tower! He figures out what he needs to fro to destroy the Vampire, and rushes off to do it! A battle ensues, and there’s slaughter! Romana is being sacrificed, with bats coming to feast on her blood! And yet, there’s no tension in any of this. Despite sitting through three very enjoyable episodes, I’ve just no connection to anything that’s happening here. A pity.

That’s not to say that the episode is a complete washout, though. There’s a lovely exchange as the time of arising begins, where a guard tells his master that he cannot go back up there, or everyone will die. The simple response - ‘Then die! That is the purpose of guards...’ - is absolutely wonderful, and I think it may be chalked up as one of my favourite lines from all of Doctor Who. Then there’s the three who rule being aged to death as the Doctor watched on. There’s a slightly dodgy shot when they fade between two states, but it’s very effective when we keep cutting back to them looking older and older until they’re gone.

It’s also a fairly good episode for K9. After a few stories in which he’s blown up, has his head knocked off, kicked about, and just generally abused, we actually have a character apologising to the dog for not putting enough faith in him! There’s something oddly heart warming about that. As if that wasn’t enough, we even get to see him trundle over the lip of the TARDIS prop! Has that happened before? I can’t recall it any time recently...

I was much more taken with the ‘making of’ feature about this story on the DVD - it’s one of the better examples of these from the entire range. It gives a potted history of the production, which was originally planned to be part of Season Fifteen before a BBC adaptation of Dracula put paid to that, and has some interesting input from both Terrance Dicks and Christopher Bidmead. I think it’s fair to say that there’s not a great deal of love lost between the pair! There’s also a lot of great discussion about the design of the story, and a look at some of the influences which inspired the style of the tower in particular.

As is rapidly becoming traditional for my Episode Four write ups this season, I’m keeping an eye on the Doctor’s actions at the end of a story. He’s at it again, you know, setting up a new society and leaving them to get on with it with very little information to go by. His advice today is that if the newly-liberated proletariat of this world use their recently salvaged technology well, then they can be a high technological society in no time. I think he’s being perhaps a little facetious there, but it does keep in with this seemingly running theme of the Doctor setting up new societies at the moment!

In contrast to some of the others, though, I can’t find an obvious way that this could go all that wrong for these people. There’s not a great deal of them, so working out some kind of democracy should be relatively simple. They’re the ones who toil and work, so they’ll be able to arrange food and keep themselves going. The only thing that the Lords ever seemed to do for them was to protect them from ‘the Wasting’, but since that’s not really an issue any more, I think we could be looking at a fairly happy future for this lot!

21 July 2014

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

Day 567: State of Decay, Episode Three

Dear diary,

I know I’ve banged on about it during the other two episodes of this serial, but I really do love that Adric has a story more-or-less separate from that of the Doctor and Romana for the most part here. It’s not until almost the very end of today’s episode that Romana actually finds Adric, and the Doctor has yet to see him! It means that there’s an interesting new vibe to the series, which can only be described as ‘parents and child’.

This is best exemplified during the Doctor and Romana’s daring escape from the tower, when they reach the door, freedom in their grasp... and then they stop because they can’t simply leave Adric behind now that they know he’s there (even though he shouldn’t be - as far as they were concerned, they’d ‘sent him to bed’ at the end of the last story). It’s rather lovely, and the way that they bicker about who’ll go and get the kid and who’ll go and get on with the proper adventure is brilliant. It’s a bit of a shame that this TARDIS team will only have one more story together, before it’s changed again.

I’m also enjoying all the new Gallifreyan lore that’s being introduced here. It seems quite soon after we had a lot of information about the very early days of the Time Lords in Shada, though I suppose that won’t have mattered at all on original transmission, but I really do enjoy delving into the dark and mysterious past of this ancient race from time to time. I especially love that we first get the Doctor musing that there are vampire legends on almost every civilised world, before going on to give us the tale of these creatures in the form of a legend, a fairy story that was told on Gallifrey. It also means that we get to hear him speak again of the old hermit who used to live in the mountains not far from his home (he lived a very sheltered life), who was first mentioned in The Time Monster, and played a fairly significant role during Planet of the Spiders. You have to wonder if this simply comes down to the script being written by Terrance Dicks, who would have over-seen those stories at the time.

From there, we go on to the Doctor getting the true record of the tale from the TARDIS. There’s something rather brilliant about the idea that the information is so old and out of date that the main databanks on the ship don’t contain it, and he has to get out some more antiquated equipment before he can have his theory backed up. I think this is the only disappointment that comes from all of this - his theory is completely backed up. In a story which has very cleverly played with the way that language changes over time (in the names of the crew members evolving and changing while they’ve been on this world), I’d have liked to see the official story of the great war against the vampires be slightly different from the subsequent retelling to a young Doctor in the form of a story. That feels like a bit of a missed opportunity when you consider the richness in other areas of this serial.

My slight worry for this next episode is that it may feel like a bit of a let down after all this build-up. The Record of Rassilon makes a point about how these creatures are damned near impossible to kill, and how they’re some of the most powerful beings to ever exist, and yet the Doctor and friends only have 25 minutes or so to kill not only the last of them, but the most powerful one, too! Considering that they’ve saved the reveal of this demon for the final episode, you have to hope that he’ll live up to the hype...

21 July 2014

Philip Morris, the man behind the recent recovery of nine lost episodes of Doctor Who, and Director of TIEA, took part in a Q&A yesterday on the 'Doctor Who Missing Episodes Discussion Group' on Facebook.

The inevitable question of whether more missing episodes of Doctor Who had been found or not, came up, and here was Morris' response:

“A tricky one to answer, and fans will just want a yes or no, haven’t you or have you. But it;s complex. All I can say is the wind is blowing the right way. Be patient.”

Morris also clarified if any announcements were due soon:

“There are no announcements in the pipeline at present. It can sometimes be the wrong thing with ongoing work and investigation. An example would be during the last announcement. I was in a very hostile part of the world and suddenly I was everywere on TV. My anonymity was compromised, which made the team a target. So we must plan these things carefully for the greater good of the project and the safety of the personnel involved.”

The 'omni-rumour' surrounding missing episodes has been going on for some time now, with many fans believing more episodes of Doctor Who will turn up. DWO also believe more episode discoveries will be announced in the not too distant future, but as Morris suggested, we all have to be patient.

DWO Discussion:
Do you think more lost episodes of Doctor Who have been found? What do you make of Philip Morris' comments? Post your comments in the comments section, below, or in the DWO Forums thread by clicking on the yellow 'Discuss' bar!

[Source: Doctor Who Missing Episodes Discussion Group]

20 July 2014

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

Day 566: State of Decay, Episode Two

Dear diary,

There’s something in the format of this story which feels very different to usual. The Doctor and Romana making their way around the spaceship as they explore is the kind of thing that would usually make up an Episode One of a story, but here it’s the focal point of this second episode, while they also get their first confrontation with the villains of the piece, and start swapping information with them that feels as though it’s coming too early in the story. That might sound like I’m complaining, but I’m really not - it’s nice to have a story which is a bit different the the norm. Despite having seen this story once before, there’s an awful lot of it that I’ve forgotten, and the fact that Adric still hasn’t encountered the Doctor and Romana since leaving Alzarius surprises me: I thought that they’d have all met up by now.

What’s appealing most to me about this story, though, is the world in which it’s all set. It’s been a little while since Doctor Who has given us a medieval society like this one, and every aspect of it is beautifully realised. Even though K9 has told us that there’s a fair amount of technology in this settlement, it really feels striking and unusual when Ivo takes out a walkie talkie, because we’ve just spent plenty of time being led to believe that our favourite tin dog has been mistaken (we’d forgive him this time - he had his head knocked off last week).

Today is the episode with bits that I most vividly recall from the story - all those shots of the Doctor and Romana while out and about exploring the ship. Scenes of them climbing up and down ladders, and arriving in the nose-cone of the rocket ship. That scene where they arrive above the engines and theres all the bodies around them is seared into my mind - and yet I only realised that once the scene came on and I was able to recite it word for word. There’s something quite magical about all this, and I love that the set designers have managed to make the futuristic parts of the ship look just as lush and beautiful as the more ‘historical’ trappings in places like the throne room.

If The Leisure Hive was a new style for Doctor Who, then this is the team taking it one step further - painting the series as the ‘dark fairy tale’ that Steven Moffat has also used to describe it. Something about this run of stories simply screams ‘autumn evenings’ to me, and while I didn’t especially watch them at that time, these episodes evoke a feeling of coming home from school on a late October afternoon, playing in the garden until nightfall, and then settling in to watch an episode of Doctor Who just like this one. It’s scary - not in the way that the Doctor being torn apart a few weeks ago was, or Romana having a spider leap on her face, but simply through the way that it feels - the sheer atmosphere of the thing.

I think it’s this, perhaps more than the story itself, that I’m really connecting with at the moment. A wonderful sense of nostalgia that warms me inside. This is Doctor Who tailored to be something I’d enjoy, and I’m thoroughly loving everything about it. While the graham Williams era dabbled with dropping the Doctor and Romana into a fairy tale, with The Ribos Operation or - more obviously - The Androids of Tara, something didn’t feel right about it. There it was simply the trappings of a slightly diff adventure series (no matter how much I may have enjoyed the stories themselves).

Here, it feels only right that our heroes should be called ‘lord’ and ‘lady’, and they suit the place perfectly. I’m pleased that Adric has still to join the Doctor and Romana not just because it means they all get their own strands of the story, but because he’s spoil the wonderful dynamic we’ve got going on this week - just before we lose her from the series - Romana has never felt more right by the Doctor’s side. The Doctor and Romana, and more importantly, Tom and Lalla, have never quite fitted the series as well as they do here, steeped in the story, and the feel of the whole piece. Who could ask for more?

19 July 2014

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

Day 565: State of Decay, Episode One

Dear diary,

It’s perhaps not a particularly popular statement, but I’m really rather liking Adric! Over the years, he’s often been described as being (at least, during the creation of the character) a bit of an ‘Artful Dodger’, but I’ve never really gotten that. Now, though, actually properly watching Full Circle and today’s episode, you can see that in full swing. He obviously tries to steal the River Fruits during the last story, and later nicks some equipment for the Doctor, and here he tries to take hold of some food to keep himself going, too. I quite like this side to the character, but I don’t think it’ll stick around for very long, because I can’t remember it happening much come Season Nineteen.

I love that he’s not actually encountered the Doctor and Romana yet, either. His decision to stay aboard the TARDIS at the end of the last story was almost ‘Steven Taylor-esque’ - i.e., you didn’t actually realise he’d done it. You see him in the TARDIS, and obviously thinking about something, but it’s not until today that you realise exactly what he’s done. It’s great that he’s yet to meet his new travelling companions again, and I’m looking really forward to that happening. I also had a good laugh at his bamboozling of K9 in order to get out of the ship!

State of Decay is the only story from the E-Space trilogy which I’d ever seen in full before starting out on this marathon, and it’s usually the story that I’m thinking of when I say that I like this season. It’s also the first real example of this season doing something that I’d probably describe as being ‘lush’, with lots of rich textures and fabrics, and almost a return to the kind of Gothic styling of the Phillip Hinchcliffe era, but given a bit of a 1980s ‘new romantic’ twist. We’ll see similar trappings in the next two stories, as well, but it looks very different here, and makes the whole thing look rather more expensive than usual...

Watching it like this, though, immediately after Full Circle, you start to realise that there’s more links between the stories in this trilogy than simply being set in E-Space. Both feature a marooned space vessel, and technology that the people of this planet don’t quite understand (while the crew of the Star Liner knew how everything worked, more or less, they didn’t know what to do with it). There’s a trio of people who make the decisions and rule over everyone else, and there’s a real sense that things take took much time - whether that be the Deciders not actually, um, deciding, or the rebels here spending time to plan and plot their next move. There’s even a point where someone complains that nothing here has changed for a thousand generations, and it feels even more linked back to the previous tale.

Because I’ve seen this story before, I know what the big twist to the story is, but I’m wondering if that will be enough to make it stand out from the last one? There’s a danger that my enjoyment of Full Circle could end up rubbing off and damaging how well this one fares with me.

18 July 2014

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

Day 564: Full Circle, Episode Four

Dear diary,

Something that I’ve not yet drawn attention to is just how lovely the direction of this story is. It’s Peter Grimwade’s first attempt at directing for the series, and I’m pleased to know that he’ll be cropping up for another three stories over the next few seasons. There’s a certain filmic look to Full Circle that feels very out-of-keeping with the way that Doctor Who is usually shot, but works well to create something very unique to this story. The making of documentary on the DVD seems to present the fact that everyone was very keen on Grimwade, and I think that shows, because he’s really getting the best out of everybody.

I think my favourite shots would have to be the various ones of the Marsh Men entering the ship, as the mist swirls around them. There’s several of these shots that are all effectively the same action, but each one is subtly different enough to not get repetitive. The contrast, when the creatures are rushing to escape the Star Liner, is just as well shot, and I think that’s the image that I’ll be remembering for this story in the future. That’s far from being the only scene in this episode to stand out, though, and I’m captivated by shots of Romana stalking around like a vampire (ironic, perhaps, considering the next story), or the Doctor holding K9’s severed head up to his face in an attempt to scare off the monsters coming for him.

It’s a real example of everything pulling together in a final episode to really work. It’s a shame that Andrew Smith never returned to the series, though, because I’ve really enjoyed his work on this one. I know that he’s come back into the fold to pen a few titles for Big Finish over the last few years, so I think I’ll be seeking them out once I’m done with the marathon, because Full Circle has definitely whet my appetite for more.

Over the last few stories, I’ve been trying to shoehorn in a story arc that leaves the Doctor and Romana a little careless in their adventures of late. Effectively, I’m trying to find the bad in every story’s ending. To begin with, I didn’t really think I’d found one in this tale. The Doctor has given them the way off the planet, set them up to move forward with their lives and give them back the power that they never really knew they’d lost… it all seemed to work out rather well. But then the more I thought about it, the more I realised that, no, that’s not the case at all. There’s a stronger theme developing here than I’d even really realised.

All these stories are ending with the Doctor effectively setting up a new civilisation, and then running away before he even really stops to give it a second thought. In The Leisure Hive, he gets rid of the warmongering Pangol, and then reworks their machines to rejuvenate there race - or at least to give them a bit longer to live, depending on how much work he’d done. Either way, whether the Fomasi ambassador is really to be trusted or not, it’s the ‘birth of a new Argolis’. Then, in Meglos, with their power source (and/or god) gone, the people of Tigella head out from their underground city to reclaim the surface and start fresh (completely fresh, since none of their technology will work any more!)

Then in today’s episode, the Doctor gives them a very brief run down of what everything on the control panel does (which they clearly don’t understand), and then tells them to simply follow the manuals. As the TARDIS departs, they watch the Star Liner head off into the stars… but where do they think they’ll go? They don’t really know what to expect from E-Space, and the people on the ship don’t really know what they’re doing, either. I’d not be surprised if the entire vessel exploded mere moments after the end credits rolled. I’m going to be keeping an even closer eye on this from now on, because it seems to be playing into an idea that’s cropped up a lot in the Eleventh Doctor’s era - the Doctor has simply gotten too ‘big’. He seems to have decided that it’s his place to swan in, sort out some problems then point them in another direction, before heading off somewhere new once he’s bored, and I’m hoping that it will have consequences for him before he regenerates… 

18 July 2014

Everybodyelse Productions announced today that they have just finished recording the first two episodes of a new science-fiction audio drama series called Osiris.

Osiris tells the story of Nottingham graphic designer Jason Fox who stumbles upon a spaceship buried deep beneath the roots of the Major Oak tree in Sherwood Forest. Jason, his best friend William Tyler and his sister Melissa Fox are then taken on a dangerous adventure where they are chased by government authorities and then hunted by a ruthless alien assassin across the solar system.

Osiris is a fun cinematic adventure on audio! It is not a narrated audiobook, but a full-cast audio drama that sounds like a Hollywood film. The cast details are as follows:

Jason Fox - Christian Edwards (Doctor Who: Daleks Among Us)
William Tyler - Robert Whitelock (Hercules, Doctor Who: The Bells of Saint John)
Melissa Fox - Liz White (Life on Mars, The Woman in Black)
General Stone - Colin McFarlane (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight)
Jessica - Georgia Moffett (Doctor Who: The Doctor’s Daughter, Spooks: Code 9)

Episode 1: Pilot is written by Martin Johnson and Episode 2: Osirian Enemy is written by Daniel Lacey. Both are directed by Lisa Bowerman and produced by Martin Johnson. The episodes will be released together as a feature-length format presented in 5.1 surround sound on a Special Limited Edition DVD, a world first for audio drama! They will also be available singularly on CD and digital download released at a later date.

We are also running a competition! Anyone who pre-orders the Limited Edition DVD will be in with a chance of receiving two posters, one for each episode, signed by the entire cast and production team. There will be 2 winners announced after release. The closing date is 15th August, 2014.

Osiris can now be pre-ordered from the Everybodyelse Productions website www.everybodyelse.co.uk in the following formats:

-  Released 15th August 2014 – Special Limited Edition DVD (1000 copies only, numbered) Volume One: Episodes 1 and 2 in a feature-length format presented in 5.1 surround sound with exclusive extra content. This is a world first for audio drama!
-  Released 12th September 2014Episode 1: Pilot - CD Release
-  Released 10th October 2014Episode 2: Osirian Enemy - CD Release

+  Like the Everybodyelse Productions Facebook page!
+  Listen to the Osiris "Sherwood" Teaser!

Download formats will be available on the CD release dates via iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and more.

[Source: Martin Johnson] 

17 July 2014

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

Day 563: Full Circle, Episode Three

Dear diary,

There’s that lovely scene in Planet of Evil, where Tom really gets to go for it with his angry acting. Although he’d inhabited the part well right from the word ‘go’ in Robot, that scene was probably the moment that he really ‘became’ the Doctor for me, and I don’t think he’s ever turned in a better performance than he does there. Imagine my delight, then, when this episode contains what is in essence a counterpoint to that scene, in which he turns his anger against the Deciders.

He starts off almost along the lines of his over-the-top ‘what’s it for’ anger from The Pirate Planet, but even at this stage, there’s something in the back of his voice which just sounds different. There’s real fury in his performance, and the longer that his tirade against the Deciders goes on, the better he gets. It really must be the highpoint of his performance in the later half of his tenure, and I was totally spellbound by it. A few minutes where he simply proves that he’s the perfect man for this part. Despite a dip in his performance around season fifteen, it really feels as though he’s picked back up again lately, and this is absolute proof of it. Wonderful stuff - and it’s largely down to this scene that today’s episode has performed as well in my ratings as it has.

It’s not the sole reason, though. As the cliffhanger sting played out today I declared loudly to the room that this was certainly an ‘8/10’ episode, having spent yesterday’s episode hovering over giving that score before settling for a 7. There’s just lots and lots about Full Circle that’s really connecting with me, and I’m really enjoying being swept along with the story.

I’ve decided that the Marsh Men, despite my reservations yesterday about the realisation of certain bits of costume, are great. It’s a design that feels completely alien, and it realised better than the Fomasi, the Nimon, or the Mandrels have been in recent serials. I’d go so far as to say that they’re the best monster design we’ve had since probably as far back as The Robots of Death. So much care has been put in to them, and the way Romana’s infection so perfectly evokes the style of the creatures is magnificent.

Then there’s the scene in which the Marsh Child wakes up to find itself strapped to an operating table, and goes absolutely mad. Ripping free of the bonds, it kills the scientist about to experiment upon it, and smashes up the entire set. There’s real gusto in the performance, too, and you get the sense that this was a ‘one take or nothing’ kind of scene. That a few moments later, the death of this same monster is able to really case some emotion really helps to raise the stakes even further.

The nice design isn’t only confined to these aliens, because I really like the look of the world they’re inhabiting, too. I’ve already praised the location work before now, but the sets of the Starliner are really rather brilliant, too. I started off yesterday making a note about how nice the corridors of the place are, with the light filling in from all around, but actually I think the ‘trial room’ (for want of a better description) is rather brilliant, too. The height of it, and the sense that it fills a large chunk of the studio really help to make it something that bit special. In many ways, it feels as though we’ve finally struck the nice balance between the cluttered, realistic sets of the Graham Williams years, and the new style imposed by John Nathan-Turner in The Leisure Hive. It’s the best set we’ve had in a while, and I’m really rather impressed with that.

Quite aside from all of this, there’s the story itself. Full Circle seemed to be heading down that familiar route of ‘decedents of a crashed space ship’ that we had in The Face of Evil (and that I think I’m right in saying gets subverted in the next story, too). All of a sudden, though, there’s more to it than that - these may not be so simply the decedents of the original crew, and there may be more ties between them and the monsters they fear than they’d like to suspect. I also love the realisation that while they could take the entire Star Liner apart and rebuild it perfectly, there’s no one around who knows how to actually fly the thing. I honestly didn’t see that coming, so shared the Doctor’s sense of shock at discovering the news.

This one is turning out to be a real success, and while I was so sure of an ‘8/10’ score today, I did briefly hover over the number nine on the keyboard. here’s hoping that the final episode can tie it all together well, because I want this one to sit quite high in my list of favourite stories at this rate.

16 July 2014

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

Day 562: Full Circle, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I can’t begin to tell you how much I’m enjoying the story of the Doctor and the Marsh Child in this episode. Almost as if picking up the cue from The Leisure Hive, that the Doctor can be friends with the slightly strange looking aliens, we’ve got him off exploring on his own and encountering a specimen of this slightly unusual new race. His reaction to seeing one up close? Much like the Third Doctor when first meeting a Silurian, he simply greets it in a friendly manner, and continues on to persuade it that everything is ok.

We then go on to have something of a game of cat and mouse between the pair, as the Doctor continues his explorations further into his new surroundings and into the Star Liner, with the Marsh Child following not far behind, close enough to see and experience everything that’s going on, while remaining far enough behind to be cautious. It’s rare that an alien species in this programme is given ‘children’ among their ranks - it’s more often than not simply a fully gown race (of warriors, usually), so it’s creating a fascinating new way of seeing these creatures. I’m really hoping that the Doctor’s friendship with this particular Marsh Child will come in handy later on, when I’m sure the grown ups of the race won’t be quite as timid.

As far as the design of the Marsh Men goes, I think it’s probably one of the best we’ve had for a while in the programme. The thing that slightly lets it down - as is so often the case - has to be the way the costume works. As the creatures walk around and explore the environment (a small thing, but I love the way that they’re free to step in deep pools of water or mud - usually fears of damaging an expensive new costume would prevent such natural movement and interaction), their effectiveness is somewhat diminished by the way the latex costumes ‘bunch’ around the crotch. I’ve also not quite decided if the masks look too ‘plastic-y’, or just the right amount of ‘alien’.

These aren’t massive criticisms, though, because on the whole I’m very impressed by the design, and the way that they’re being used. Certainly, they’ve fared better than the other monster to appear in this episode - those spiders. I’m always a bit on edge when I know there’s spiders abound, and I’ve never made it this far into Full Circle probably for fear of reaching this point of the story. They’re even less effective than the ones from Planet of the Spiders, though! That old BBC rule about not making spiders look too realistic on screen has come to my rescue once again, because the actual sequence - in which these arachnids burst from the centre of fruit, including one right onto Romana’s face! - could be quite scary if the props didn’t look quite so… battery operated. The glowing eyes make them look cute, if anything!

I do feel a bit for Lalla Ward in this episode, it has to be said. While Tom’s off exploring a beautiful new world (has Ward even set foot on location yet in this story?), she’s stuck inside, dealing with a group of children. Obviously someone was paying attention to how well she worked when paired with the young sacrifices during The Horns of Nimon. The biggest issue that this causes comes when asked to portray the TARDIS being carried away by the Marsh Men. For a few minutes, the episode dips in to being exactly what everyone always thought Doctor Who was like - with the camera jerking to the side, and a delay before the group of actors hurl themselves unconvincingly across the set. We’ve had some great examples of this type of acting in the series before… but this isn’t one of them.

Still, she hasn’t got as raw a deal as poor K9. The campaign of hatred against the poor mutt continues today, with his entire head being knocked off by a particularly mean Marsh Man with a stick! Romana laments that they always seem to be repairing K9, and it’s no wonder when the current production team seem so intent on damaging him as much as possible (were they simply hoping to destroy the prop so much that they could simply claim not to be able to use it any more?). As if that wasn’t bad enough, even the incidental music in this story is mocking the poor creature, playing up the comedy when he’s unable to follow the Marsh Men across a small dip in the ground. At least he gets the best line in the entire episode today, though, when the Doctor points out that the creatures they’re watching have stopped moving, and K9 replies ‘the observation is correct’.

I’m going to miss the sarcastic thing when he goes…

16 July 2014

BBC Books have released the cover art and details for their forthcoming 12th Doctor novel, The Blood Cell.

The Blood Cell
By James Goss

"Release The Doctor - or the killing will start." 

An asteroid in the furthest reaches of space - the most secure prison for the most dangerous of criminals. The Governor is responsible for the worst fraudsters and the cruellest murderers. So he's certainly not impressed by the arrival of the man they're calling the most dangerous criminal in the quadrant. Or, as he prefers to be known, the Doctor. 

What does impress the Governor is the way the new prisoner immediately sets about trying to escape. And keeps trying. Finally, he sends for the Doctor and asks him why? But the answer surprises even the Governor. And then there's the threat - unless the Governor listens to the Doctor, a lot of people will die. 

Who is the Doctor and what's he really doing here? Why does he want to help the Governor? And who is the young woman who comes every day to visit him, only to be turned away by the guards? 

When the killing finally starts, the Governor begins to get his answers...

+  The Blood Cell is released on 11th September 2014, priced £6.99.
+  Preorder via Amazon.co.uk for just £5.24. 

[Source: BBC Books]

16 July 2014

BBC Books have released the cover art and details for their forthcoming 12th Doctor novel, The Crawling Terror.

The Crawling Terror
By Mike Tucker

"Well, I doubt you'll ever see a bigger insect."

Gabby Nichols is putting her son to bed when she hears her daughter cry out. 'Mummy there's a daddy longlegs in my room!' Then the screaming starts... Alan Travers is heading home from the pub when something rushes his face - a spider's web. Then something huge and deadly lumbers from the shadows... Kevin Alperton is on his way to school when he is attacked by a mosquito. A big one. Then things get dangerous.

But it isn't the dead man cocooned inside a huge mass of web that worries the Doctor. It isn't the swarming, mutated insects that make him nervous. It isn't an old man's garbled memories of past dangers that intrigue him. 

With the village cut off from the outside world, and the insects becoming more and more dangerous, the Doctor knows that no one is safe. Not unless he can decode the strange symbols engraved on an ancient stone circle, and unravel a mystery dating back to the Second World War.

+  The Crawling Terror is released on 11th September 2014, priced £6.99.
+  Preorder via Amazon.co.uk for just £5.24

[Source: BBC Books]

16 July 2014

BBC Books have released the cover art and details for their forthcoming 12th Doctor novel, Silhouette.

Silhouette
By Justin Richards

"Vastra and Strax and Jenny? Oh no, we don't need to bother them. Trust me." 

Marlowe Hapworth is found dead in his locked study, killed by an unknown assailant. This is a case for the Great Detective, Madame Vastra. 

Rick Bellamy, bare-knuckle boxer, has the life drawn out of him by a figure dressed as an undertaker. This angers Strax the Sontaran. 

The Carnival of Curiosities, a collection of bizarre and fascinating sideshows and performers. This is where Jenny Flint looks for answers. 

How are these things connected? And what does Orestes Milton, rich industrialist, have to do with it all? This is where the Doctor and Clara come in. The Doctor and his friends find themselves thrust into a world where nothing and no one are what they seem. Can they unravel the truth before the most dangerous weapon ever developed is unleashed on London?

+  Silhouette is released on 11th September 2014, priced £6.99.
+  Preorder via Amazon.co.uk for just £5.24. 

[Source: BBC Books]

16 July 2014

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: LM Myles, Mark Ravenhill, Una McCormack & Nev Fountain

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: July 2014

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 16th July 2014

Breaking Bubbles by LM Myles
The Doctor and Peri find themselves in the palatial gardens of the deposed Empress Safira Valtris where nothing is ever quite what it seems.

Of Chaos Time The by Mark Ravenhill
Cast adrift in his own chronology, the Doctor must avert the consequences of a catastrophic experiment in using time as a weapon of war.

An Eye For Murder by Una McCormack
The year is 1939, and a case of poison pen letters at St Ursula’s College threatens to change the course of the Second World War. Fortunately thriller writer Miss Sarah Perry is on hand to investigate...

The Curious Incident Of The Doctor In The Night-Time by Nev Fountain
Michael is a young boy who likes to solve mysteries, such as the mystery of the extra gnome, the mystery of the absent father, and the mystery of the strange man in yellow trousers at the bottom of the garden.

* * *
It’s that time of the year again, when Big Finish pauses for a bit in the run of trilogies and gives us one of its ‘4x1’ releases. Ever since the highs of Circular Time, these releases have become something to look forward to (in my eyes, at least). 1001 Nights and Recorded Time were both hits in my eyes, so I was looking forward to listening to this release.

The key to getting these sort of releases ‘right’, is in creating stories slight enough to fill up half an hour but with enough detail to not feel slight; to have a plot which doesn’t feel wasted by using it up in only one episode but is arresting enough to feel just right. Short episodes, like short stories, are an art form to get right, and thankfully, this release as a whole gets it right. Naturally, there are some stories I definitely preferred to others, some plots which arrested me more than others, but in terms of all being decently-crafted episodes, this CD ticks the boxes.

Given that it covers four separate stories, I’ll look at each of them in turn for this review.

First up, we get Breaking Bubbles itself, by LM Myles. I rather liked the way this tale manages to distill much of what is typical about Doctor Who into one episode, whilst also playing it. So, we get The Doctor and his companion separated, but they end up in part working against one another. We get a prisoner and escort tale, but neither of them are as black and white as is so often the case. Indeed, this theme of playing with perception proves to be the foundation of this play: who people appear to be and who they really are; actions they say they will take but may not.

The ending is perhaps a bit rushed, but no more than you would get if there were two episodes to play with. Myles has written a strong start to the overall release and an interesting tale in its own right.

Next up is the appropriately confusingly titled Of Chaos Time The by Mark Ravenhill. If Breaking Bubbles felt like it got things started quickly, Of Chaos Time The makes it look positively pedestrian in comparison. We literally hit the ground running, caught up midway through an adventure... as does The Doctor. Again, it’s a neat take on an old trope: starting the story when it’s already well underway, except this time the protagonist is every bit as confused as the listener. Long-time listeners of Big Finish release will see similarities to Creatures of Beauty here with its disjointed structure, but whilst that was a novelty, here it is integral to the tale itself: time is all cockahoop, and it’s up to The Doctor to make sense of it all.

Of all the stories on this release, this is perhaps the one that feels most like a radio drama, with lots of scenes where The Doctor narrates his thinking aloud and describes what he sees, something inevitable with audio drama but perhaps a bit limiting at times. It’s certainly the episode which I felt stretched its premise out the thinnest, but not to the stage where it outstays its welcome. Even so, it proved to be the weakest of the four stories for me, whilst the next was the best.

An Eye For Murder by Una McCormack is a wonderfully atmospheric tale of mystery, tension, mistaken identity and politic. Set in the outbreak of the Second World War at St Ursula’s College, Peri is mistaken for a writer of mysteries and before too long, she is embroiled in finding out who is responsible for a particularly nasty series of letters at a time when racial and political tensions are reaching a peak: if only her pesky assistant, The Doctor, can stay out of trouble and do his typing in peace...

Taking a more sedate pace than the previous two tales, McCormack is able to cover a lot in the thirty minutes afforded to her, from ideological disparity at a time of racial tension, to the role of women at a time when emancipation and Feminism were dirty terms, whilst also having a lot of fun with the idea of The Doctor and Peri being detectives. They fit into that mould with incredible ease, and to be perfectly honest, I would easily have just listened to them solve a mystery in a purely-historical context rather than having an alien influence (though that said, the fantastical twist is rather a nice one and slots into the background well). Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant are on top form throughout this, Bryant in particular relishing the material she is given, and the guest cast are as strong as the script. If you listen to just one story on this release, this is the one to go for.

We end with The Curious Incident Of The Doctor In The Night-Time by Nev Fountain, a story which wears its influence on its sleeve and manages to simultaneously evoke Mark Haddon’s fantastic novel whilst being its own thing. As with An Eye For Murder, in many ways I’d have easily enjoyed this without its Doctor Who trappings.  I mean, I know you couldn’t do the episode without The Doctor and Peri being in it, but when they do arrive, they perhaps slow the pace down somewhat, which is a shame. Whilst The Doctor is flitting around in the background without any lines or interaction with the main protagonist, I was arguably more engaged with the tale. As soon as they appear, things become a bit more sci-fi/fantasy: which, in all fairness, is as it should be, really.  The Doctor and Peri, travellers through space and time and oddity aplenty, crashing into the ordinary day of a family and making it extraordinary. It’s just arguably not as arresting once this happens. I was more invested when we were just learning about Michael, his family, and his coming to terms with important events in his life.

And then, just when I resigned to this as my overall feelings towards this episode, Nev Fountain gives us the final scene and completely slaughtered me emotionally.  Baker is absolutely mesmerizing and incredible in those final few moments, and the heart is truly... touched. It’s as beautiful an ending to a tale as you’re likely to find and ends up making this second half stronger than the first.

So, there we have it. Four stories of varying strengths and varying settings. The final two were, for my money, the real winners, but the opener is strong and even the weakest of the four has much to celebrate. More like this, please. A real treat.

16 July 2014

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: LM Myles, Mark Ravenhill, Una McCormack & Nev Fountain

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: July 2014

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 16th July 2014

Breaking Bubbles by LM Myles
The Doctor and Peri find themselves in the palatial gardens of the deposed Empress Safira Valtris where nothing is ever quite what it seems.

Of Chaos Time The by Mark Ravenhill
Cast adrift in his own chronology, the Doctor must avert the consequences of a catastrophic experiment in using time as a weapon of war.

An Eye For Murder by Una McCormack
The year is 1939, and a case of poison pen letters at St Ursula’s College threatens to change the course of the Second World War. Fortunately thriller writer Miss Sarah Perry is on hand to investigate...

The Curious Incident Of The Doctor In The Night-Time by Nev Fountain
Michael is a young boy who likes to solve mysteries, such as the mystery of the extra gnome, the mystery of the absent father, and the mystery of the strange man in yellow trousers at the bottom of the garden.

* * *
It’s that time of the year again, when Big Finish pauses for a bit in the run of trilogies and gives us one of its ‘4x1’ releases. Ever since the highs of Circular Time, these releases have become something to look forward to (in my eyes, at least). 1001 Nights and Recorded Time were both hits in my eyes, so I was looking forward to listening to this release.

The key to getting these sort of releases ‘right’, is in creating stories slight enough to fill up half an hour but with enough detail to not feel slight; to have a plot which doesn’t feel wasted by using it up in only one episode but is arresting enough to feel just right. Short episodes, like short stories, are an art form to get right, and thankfully, this release as a whole gets it right. Naturally, there are some stories I definitely preferred to others, some plots which arrested me more than others, but in terms of all being decently-crafted episodes, this CD ticks the boxes.

Given that it covers four separate stories, I’ll look at each of them in turn for this review.

First up, we get Breaking Bubbles itself, by LM Myles. I rather liked the way this tale manages to distill much of what is typical about Doctor Who into one episode, whilst also playing it. So, we get The Doctor and his companion separated, but they end up in part working against one another. We get a prisoner and escort tale, but neither of them are as black and white as is so often the case. Indeed, this theme of playing with perception proves to be the foundation of this play: who people appear to be and who they really are; actions they say they will take but may not.

The ending is perhaps a bit rushed, but no more than you would get if there were two episodes to play with. Myles has written a strong start to the overall release and an interesting tale in its own right.

Next up is the appropriately confusingly titled Of Chaos Time The by Mark Ravenhill. If Breaking Bubbles felt like it got things started quickly, Of Chaos Time The makes it look positively pedestrian in comparison. We literally hit the ground running, caught up midway through an adventure... as does The Doctor. Again, it’s a neat take on an old trope: starting the story when it’s already well underway, except this time the protagonist is every bit as confused as the listener. Long-time listeners of Big Finish release will see similarities to Creatures of Beauty here with its disjointed structure, but whilst that was a novelty, here it is integral to the tale itself: time is all cockahoop, and it’s up to The Doctor to make sense of it all.

Of all the stories on this release, this is perhaps the one that feels most like a radio drama, with lots of scenes where The Doctor narrates his thinking aloud and describes what he sees, something inevitable with audio drama but perhaps a bit limiting at times. It’s certainly the episode which I felt stretched its premise out the thinnest, but not to the stage where it outstays its welcome. Even so, it proved to be the weakest of the four stories for me, whilst the next was the best.

An Eye For Murder by Una McCormack is a wonderfully atmospheric tale of mystery, tension, mistaken identity and politic. Set in the outbreak of the Second World War at St Ursula’s College, Peri is mistaken for a writer of mysteries and before too long, she is embroiled in finding out who is responsible for a particularly nasty series of letters at a time when racial and political tensions are reaching a peak: if only her pesky assistant, The Doctor, can stay out of trouble and do his typing in peace...

Taking a more sedate pace than the previous two tales, McCormack is able to cover a lot in the thirty minutes afforded to her, from ideological disparity at a time of racial tension, to the role of women at a time when emancipation and Feminism were dirty terms, whilst also having a lot of fun with the idea of The Doctor and Peri being detectives. They fit into that mould with incredible ease, and to be perfectly honest, I would easily have just listened to them solve a mystery in a purely-historical context rather than having an alien influence (though that said, the fantastical twist is rather a nice one and slots into the background well). Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant are on top form throughout this, Bryant in particular relishing the material she is given, and the guest cast are as strong as the script. If you listen to just one story on this release, this is the one to go for.

We end with The Curious Incident Of The Doctor In The Night-Time by Nev Fountain, a story which wears its influence on its sleeve and manages to simultaneously evoke Mark Haddon’s fantastic novel whilst being its own thing. As with An Eye For Murder, in many ways I’d have easily enjoyed this without its Doctor Who trappings.  I mean, I know you couldn’t do the episode without The Doctor and Peri being in it, but when they do arrive, they perhaps slow the pace down somewhat, which is a shame. Whilst The Doctor is flitting around in the background without any lines or interaction with the main protagonist, I was arguably more engaged with the tale. As soon as they appear, things become a bit more sci-fi/fantasy: which, in all fairness, is as it should be, really.  The Doctor and Peri, travellers through space and time and oddity aplenty, crashing into the ordinary day of a family and making it extraordinary. It’s just arguably not as arresting once this happens. I was more invested when we were just learning about Michael, his family, and his coming to terms with important events in his life.

And then, just when I resigned to this as my overall feelings towards this episode, Nev Fountain gives us the final scene and completely slaughtered me emotionally.  Baker is absolutely mesmerizing and incredible in those final few moments, and the heart is truly... touched. It’s as beautiful an ending to a tale as you’re likely to find and ends up making this second half stronger than the first.

So, there we have it. Four stories of varying strengths and varying settings. The final two were, for my money, the real winners, but the opener is strong and even the weakest of the four has much to celebrate. More like this, please. A real treat.

16 July 2014

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Stephen Cole

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: June 2014

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 16th July 2014

France, the year 1770: by special invitation, the famous 'Doctor', friend of Voltaire, arrives at the lonely estate of the lovely Marquise de Rimdelle – once a hostess to the highest of high society, now isolated by the strange, pernicious mist that lingers round the countryside.

But there's more in that fog than mere vapour, confesses the Marquise's strange niece to the Doctor's ward, Nyssa. She senses some uncanny machine circling the fringes of the estate, in the space between the shadows. Watching. Always watching. She's given it a name: 'The Steamroller Man'.

Meanwhile, the man in the cellar talks to the Doctor; a dead man, trapped behind the cellar walls. The Steamroller Man is coming, he says; coming to smash the place down. It seems the Doctor has been drawn into a very dangerous liaison…

* * *
Before I even start this review, I want to note that it is going to contain spoilers, not just for this play but the other two in this recent Fifth Doctor/Nyssa trilogy also.  You have been warned!

The third in this most recent run of adventures for the Doctor and Nyssa sees them joined once again by Hannah Bartholomew, the latest TARDIS stray who we met at the start of this trilogy and surprised us all in the midway point (or did so to this listener at any rate).  Masquerade starts off with us all on the back foot. You rather feel like you’ve skipped past the first three-or-so tracks when you begin the tale: plenty of things are afoot, and it’s up to us to play catch up. It is quite a neat and refreshing move and gets the story off to a good start. One thing I really admired the play for was not doing the usual thing of keeping a twist to one side until the cliffhanger to the opening episode. Within a few minutes, you are aware that things are not all they appear to be: The Doctor is not acting like The Doctor, Nyssa is not acting like Nyssa, and no-one else seems quite right either. Stephen Cole doesn’t shy away from being bold and blatant in his set-up so early on, and, again, this is something to be applauded. It bucks the trend and gives us something pleasingly original instead of the same old story trotted out yet again. It’s the sort of thing Big Finish can do so well at times, so it was nice to have it here.

Sadly though, Masquerade never lives up to that opening burst of ingenuity and flair. The story that follows is fine (things remain not what they ought to be, people keep being not who they appear to be, the regulars carry on getting to have some good “There’s something wrong with my mind!” moments) but, ultimately, nowhere near as strong or interesting as the opening would have you believe, which is a pity. Even the main antagonist lacks the required stench of fear or bite to really make all the elements gel.

Crucially, for a tale which so neatly bucks the trend to begin with, things later on feel increasingly... familiar. Cole’s writing is fine enough, but there is too much that feels like we’ve seen it all before.  I had that a little bit with Tomb Ship last month, being able to directly compare like-for-like that story to another Fifth Doctor one, and whilst that isn’t the case here, you can still see the numbers beneath the drying paint, sadly.

Even the very ending can be seen coming, and what happens next (as in, in future releases)... well, sadly I can imagine. I can imagine that there is a clear ending here but that, as with Hex and Flip and Charley and, arguably, even Nyssa, Big Finish won’t stop. Because the ending here clearly signals the end of Hannah. But will it be? I doubt it somehow.

The very ending feels rather rushed, as if it’s missing a TARDIS scene to tie things up, which perhaps gives the impression more of a pause before Hannah returns in some guise than a full stop, which it should be for the story to make any sense at all. It feels like Hannah was never intended to reappear beyond Moonflesh and now Big Finish are uncertain what to do with her: do they kill her off? (Yes, sort of.) Do they keep the doors open? (Maybe: explains the way the tale just... ends without any sense of closure.) Or does it reflect Hannah being a very late addition, so they can dispose of her character without any grand gesture, as if she were just an additional cast member in this story only? (Possibly.)

I don’t know what happens next.  Maybe Hannah will return. Oddly, I think they need to tie up the ending here in some way, but I would rather see her staying put. An acknowledgement of her fate perhaps hanging over The Doctor and Nyssa in their next adventure before carrying on afresh? I think this would work better than the alternative, which is having her come back and making a nonsense of this story’s plot. I guess we will see.

What I do know is that this speculation is perhaps more enjoyable to engage in than listening to Masquerade was. Heck, the fact the original CD pressing and download were missing about five seconds’ worth of dialogue created more drama than you get for the most part in this play.

A series of diminishing returns, I hope the next Fifth Doctor and Nyssa trilogy glows brighter.

15 July 2014

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

Day 561: Full Circle, Episode One

Dear diary,

Robot isn’t really representative of Philip Hinchcliffe’s era of Doctor Who. Horror of Fang Rock doesn’t really sum up the Graham Williams period, and Spearhead From Space (indeed, Season Seven as a whole, in many respects) isn’t the kind of programme that we’d see for the next four years under Barry Letts. The same is true, in some regards, with Season Eighteen, and the stories we’ve had so far. Oh, sure, The Leisure Hive feels at times as though the 1980s is slapping you in the face, but it’s not until this story that you suddenly get to see what Doctor Who is going to be for the next few years.

Most obviously, it’s the introduction of Adric, who’ll be travelling with the Doctor for much of the next two seasons. Adric has become something of a by-word to mean ‘a bad character’ in Doctor Who, but it has to be said that he’s off to a fairly good start here. Granted, Matthew Waterhouse isn’t giving the best performance that we’ve ever seen, but he’s certainly not giving the worst, either! I think it helps that so much of this episode is given over to him, too. The Doctor and Romana are absent for long stretches of the story, while we follow the exploits of Adric and his ‘tribe’ (for want of a better word).

Perhaps less obviously, this episode is stuffed full of continuity references. The Doctor and Romana have been called back to Gallifrey: but it means that there’s a chance to name check Leela and Andred (who were last seen - and mentioned - at the end of Season Fifteen, years ago!), plus the Key to Time, Romana pointing out that the Doctor once tried to fight the Time Lords, and his sad admission that he lost… I rather like some of these references, and watching the series at the pace of an episode a day means that these events weren’t all that long ago for me, but it does feel a little bit like the start of the series playing to the fan base perhaps a little more than the general audience. Odd bits of continuity being dropped in are fine - to the average viewer, there’s no difference between them and the Doctor referencing an adventure with Leonardo, but when they come as thick and fast as they do here, you start to feel as though you might be missing out on something, perhaps…

Still, that’s only a minor point in what has been a fairly enjoyable episode. It feels like ages since we last had an alien world represented by a real location (there’s a quarry in Destiny of the Daleks, but before that you have to reach back to The Power of Kroll. The series really was very studio-bound during Season Seventeen, unless it was gallivanting around modern-day Europe), and it’s a lovely one, to boot. It genuinely feels expansive when characters are running around and swimming, and right off the bat there’s a sense that these characters, even the supporting artistes, are part of a very believable world.

The location looks especially nice once the Mist Fall has started, too, with the trees and the rivers all shrouded in the fog. I’m hoping that we don’t move exclusively inside now that the star liner has been introduced - there’s opportunities for some very nice directing in locations like this. It’s perhaps a shame, then, that so much time is spent inside the TARDIS again here. I love the ship, don’t get me wrong, but after a whole episode and a bit with the Doctor and Romana trapped in there during the last story, I’d much rather they got outside and started to explore! 

14 July 2014

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

Day 560: Meglos, Episode Four

Dear diary,

This must be one of the quickest adventures that the Doctor has ever been caught up in. Once he’s left the TARDIS, he wanders through the jungle for a bit, gets arrested upon entering the city, is sentenced to death, and it’s only after this - in this final episode - that he actually gets stuck in and does something… and even then it’s simply ‘alter the settings on the alien cactus’ computer! Had he not been mistaken for Meglos and locked away in a cell for a bit at the end of the story, he’d have been away even quicker! At one stage during pre-production, The Lodger was planned to have Meglos turn up as a villain, and the Doctor wouldn’t remember him. It’s not hard to see why when watching this story - he was only a part of the Doctor’s life for a single afternoon!

It’s not only the Doctor’s adventure that’s running a bit short this time around, though, but the story itself. This episode features a cliffhanger reprise of almost three minutes in length - and it’s not the longest episode in the world, anyway! There’s less than 20 minutes of ‘new’ adventure in this episode, and I think that’s all helping to give the impression of things feeling a little… light.

My biggest concern, though… does the Doctor actually solve the problem? I mean… he stops Meglos from blowing up Tigella, sure, but what about all the people living there? Once the Conscience of Marinus - sorry, I mean the Dodecahedron - had been stolen, things in their city were beginning to fail, and the whole place was going to collapse in a meter of hours! As far as I can see, the Doctor doesn’t actually take it back to them at the end of the story, it’s left to be destroyed along with Meglos’ world.

There’s a suggestion in the final scene that they’ll be moving up to the surface again, and thus they won’t need the power of the Dodecahedron any more, but… well, the surface is dangerous! It’s full of carnivorous plants, and as far as I could see, all the Tigellan’s weapons were power-based. What happens when the batteries run flat? They’re going to have a bloody difficult job trying to start a new life when everything they’ve ever known has suddenly been wiped out! Not to mention the vast numbers of religious folk who’ve had their god stolen away, and are likely to now be left without a sense of purpose…

If I’m honest, this is really just me trying to force a bad outcome on to events - all part of my desire for the Doctor’s lack of care to catch up with him by the time he regenerates at the end of the season. Chances are, they can get along just fine, but… well… it’s something to think about, certainly. It’s been ages since I’ve been able to piece together an obscure and probably non-existent running theme like this through the series, so I’m rather keen to see it continue. What’s that the Eighth Doctor says about human seeing patterns that aren’t there…? 

13 July 2014

The BBC have tonight released a full launch trailer for Series 8 of Doctor Who.

The trailer gives us a taste of the first few episodes from the eighth season of Doctor Who, and you can view it in the player, below:


Below is DWO's guide to the confirmed and rumoured titles for Series 8:

8.1: Deep Breath - written by Steven Moffat
8.2: Into The Dalek* - written by Phil Ford
8.3: Robots Of Sherwood*
 - written by Mark Gatiss
8.4: Listen*
 - written by Steven Moffat
8.5: Time Heist*
 - written by Stephen Thompson
8.6: [Untitled] - written by Gareth Roberts
8.7: Kill The Moon*
8.8: Mummy On The Orient Express*
8.9: Flatline*
8.10: [Untitled]
8.11: [Untitled]
8.12: [Untitled]

* Unconfirmed

+  Series 8 of Doctor Who will air in the UK on 23rd August 2014, on BBC One.
+  Series 8 of Doctor Who will air in the USA on 23rd August 2014, on BBC America.
+  Series 8 of Doctor Who will air in Canada on 23rd August 2014, on SPACE.
+  Series 8 of Doctor Who will air in Australia on 24th August 2014, on ABC1

[Source: BBC]

13 July 2014

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

Day 559: Meglos, Episode Three

Dear diary,

This is the second time, after Creature from the Pit, that Romana has been left to distract a group of bandits while the Doctor gets on with the real story. As in the previous example, it’s absolutely brilliant, and possibly the best example of Lalla Ward in character - it’s just so fun to watch! I laughed for ages at her description of leading them in circles being down to the planet having an ‘anti-clockwise rotation’ (and the fact that they bought it), and then laughed even harder when she latter comments that such a rotation makes it very hard to navigate. Despite my reservations when we first moved over to this incarnation of Romana, I’ve grown to really enjoy both the character, and Ward’s performance.

While we’re on the subject of performances, it’s been a while since I’ve praised Tom Baker. He’s given so much to do in this story - flicking back and forth between being the evil cactus and the not-evil Doctor, and he’s managing to excel in both cases. There’s occasions throughout the entire seven-year run of Tom Baker’s Doctor where you can just see him being galvanised by a new script, and I think that Meglos may be one such occasion. The chance to play a slightly different role to his usual one seems to have given him a boost of energy, and he’s actually managing to make the plant seem quite menacing. I’m also loving the whole ‘fighting with the Earthling’ scenes, where some rather smart effects give the impression of the pair splitting apart. I may yet get to discover why he needed an Earthling brought to him after all…!

I suppose that since I’ve discussed two of the regulars, I’d better make a mention of the third. Poor K9, he’s really going through the mill this season, isn’t he? Throughout the last couple of years, he’s usually simply been left in the TARDIS when they want him out of the way for a story, but now it’s as if the production team are actively taking out their frustrations on the poor dog! In The Leisure Hive, he gets trundled into the sea and blown up as early as possible, so that he’s out of the way by the time we reach Argolis (even though it’s the kind of location he could easily manoeuvre in!), and today he’s had his batteries run down, before one of our bandits drops him on the floor and gives him a good kick! No wonder he’s leaving before long - it’s become a broken home!

Though she’s not a regular any more, I’m going to mention Jacqueline Hill while I’m at it - because I’m surprised how much she’s not all that important to the story. Oh, don’t get me wrong, she’s one of the leading guest stars, and she’s just condemned the Doctor to his death, but I always assumed that she would be the guest character for Meglos, simply because within the world of Doctor Who, she has such a reputation. I wonder if she turned up to rehearsals on the first day and reminded everyone that she was one of the original companions? I hope so. Still, there’s a certain irony, considering that Barbara’s stand-out story was The Aztecs - in which she sets herself up as a god in an attempt to put a stop to religious sacrifice - that in this story, one of the cliffhangers sees her condemning the Doctor to sacrifice in order to appease her god! I like to imagine that Jacqueline had a good chuckle about that when she first read the script…

12 July 2014

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

Day 558: Meglos, Episode Two

Dear diary,

Ere, listen! I’ve had this great idea for a new setting for a Doctor Who story! It’s set, right, in a jungle, yeah? Only this jungle isn’t your standard ‘Amazon Rainforest’ nonsense, because the plants in this jungle, right, are - wait for it - more like animal life than plant life. So, right, like, Doctor Who and his assistant have to make their way through all these carnivorous plants and things before they can make it to safety!

I joke, of course, but the programme really does give us an awful lot of jungles, doesn’t it? I’m not entirely sure why, but can only conclude that it’s down to them knowing they can produce something half decent in the studio, and the fact that a jungle represents an ‘exotic’ location. And, in all fairness, they’ve at least done something interesting with the concept this time around - or more interesting than usual. Whereas before we’ve simply had somewhat mindless killer plants attacking our heroes through general instinct (that’s the case with most Terry Nation stories), or because they’re being controlled by someone (as with the Wolf Weeds in last season’s Creature from the Pit), here, the main villain is actually a very intelligent plant. People mock Meglos, but I quite like that idea.

I’ve also quite liked him taking on the form of the Doctor throughout this episode. The fact that his awkwardness and abrupt nature can pass so well - even to me - as the Doctor is great, and I found myself listening to several lines of dialogue, wondering why they’re never included among the Doctor’s most famous ones, before remembering that it’s not really the Doctor speaking at all, but rather our fine cactus friend. The only thing I’m wondering, though… why did Meglos need a human being to transform in to? He didn’t seem to have any trouble in replicating the Doctor’s appearance based only of data from a screen (he’s even managed to get the coat right, and he only saw the collar of that briefly in a still image). Did he need to take the form of something less… spiky… before he could properly change himself? If so, then why did it have to be an Earthling? In the first Episode, that’s described as being really far away… it just seems like an awful lot of trouble…

Meglos must also rank as being one of the stories that takes the Doctor and Romana the longest period of time to reach the action. Sure, the time loop they’ve been caught in is a direct result of everything happening down on the planet, and they’ve sent a message down to them, too, but really, the Doctor’s only just met everyone as this episode closes, and Romana has been captured in the final moments, too! Still, I’m less interested in when they’re getting caught up in the action now and more about when the Doctor first came here. He tells a guard that it was ’50 years’ in their time, but how about for him?

Zastor describes the Doctor as being ‘a little older, little wiser’ when they first meet (or, at least, when he first meets the Meglos-Doctor, which amounts to the same thing, really), but that doesn’t really give us an awful lot to go on. I’d like to assume that it’s in the same gap from Robot, where the Doctor nipped off and caused all that trouble on Leela’s home world. There’s no mention of any travelling companion having been with him on the previous occasion (and Zastor’s unfamiliarity with Romana rules it out as being during the Doctor’s travels with her), but I suppose it could have happened between The Hand of Fear and The Face of Evil, or later between The Invasion of Time and The Ribos Operation. It doesn’t actually matter, of course, but as a fan, it’s one of those insignificant little things I like to wonder about idly between episodes! 

11 July 2014

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

Day 557: Meglos, Episode One

Dear diary,

As with Season Seventeen, lots of this year’s stories were recorded out of order. As a result, Meglos didn’t enter production until some months after The Leisure Hive, and once Tom Baker had been through a bout of ill health, and the difference between him from yesterday’s episode to today’s is palpable. People talk of the fact that the Doctor looks a lot more frail this series than he has at any other point during this incarnation, and I was expecting to see that in action during the first story of the season, but there it was only really caused by swamping the man in such a large costume, with big coats, scarves, and hats. Today’s episode sees him without any jackets or coats on, and he simply looks gaunt. It’s quite striking, and knowing that this Doctor is headed for his death, it’s also a little bit saddening.

And as if to add to his woes - the Doctor and Romana don’t even get to leave the TARDIS in this episode! They spend the first half trying to fix K9, and the second half getting caught up in a time loop, played over and over again! It does mean, though, that we get a slightly different arrival for them into the narrative properly (or, at least, we will have), in that the Doctor has ‘called ahead’ to someone on this story’s planet of choice, and actively asked if they can pop in to say hello. In many ways, it’s the perfect thing to do having destroyed the Randomiser in the last episode, but they seem to have arrived in this part of space… at random. Oh well, it’s a nice idea all the same.

There are only two things that I know about Meglos: The villain is a cactus, and it features the return of Jacqueline Hill to the programme for the first time since Ian and Barbara headed back to 1965 in a Dalek time machine during the chase. From my point of view in The 50 Year Diary, that took place on March 24th last year - so it’s been a while since I’ve seen her! I’m not sure, though, that I’d have recognised her here were it not for knowing who she is. Fifteen years older, and with a rather elaborate headpiece on, she’d not quite the person I knew back in the early days of the programme.

And yet, when I first got in to Doctor Who, I used to be fascinated by the idea of this story! Somehow, in my mind, I’d simply discovered that Jacqueline Hill made her return in this tale, and figured it meant a return for Barbara after all this time. How she’d ended up on a distant world didn’t really matter to me, it was just an exciting thought that companions did that at all in the classic series. Obviously, she’s not actually playing Barbara, but this story makes her part of a very exclusive group of actors who’ve had the chance to play other characters after their stint as a companion.

The only other examples that I can think of are Jean Marsh (returning to play Morgaine in Battlefield some 23 years after being killed off in The Daleks’ Master Plan), John Leeson (although he doesn’t really count, because he played a character in The Power of Kroll at the same time as being K9), and Billie Piper (playing The Moment in The Day of the Doctor, although this is also debatable, because the device has specifically taken on her form). Extend out to the audios, and there’s lots of examples, including Anneke Wills in the role of Charlotte Pollard’s mother, and Daphne Ashbrook joining UNIT. As far as TV appearances as new characters go, it’s very rare.

It’s really nice to see her, though. I’ve said before while working through that even though I was somewhat sick of Ian and Barbara by the time they finally departed from the Doctor’s travels, I’m now at a point where I’m very keen to go back and see a few of the old serials again. I’d love to watch The Keys of Marinus or The Dalek Invasion of Earth - so hopefully having Jacqueline around for a few days will help to give me my ‘1960s fix’…! 

10 July 2014

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

Day 556: The Leisure Hive, Episode Four

Dear diary,

Oh dear. This one has all sort of fallen apart for me at the very end here. I like that Pangol has reached a point where he’s completely lost it and is ready to seize control of the planet - he’s so much of a stroppy toddler throwing a tantrum here - even though I’ve really disliked him throughout, it feels like this is what everything has been building towards. But after three episodes that move at a fairly leisurely pace, all of a sudden, everything happens at once, and the resolution seems to boil down to the Doctor happening to plug the Randomiser into the alien machine, which means that it cloned him instead of Pangol (?) and then reduced Pangol to a baby (jQuery152043949232366867363_1405198236843) who is then pawned off to others while Mena heads off to have some peace talks with the Fomasi.

My biggest problem with this sequence, though, is that while Pangol continues to get madder and madder, the Argolins simply stand around and don’t do anything! Even when Romana bursts in and points out that he’s gone crazy, they just… mill about. They don’t seem to be working for Pangol, because they make no attempt to stop Romana, they’re simply in her way by not doing anything. I found it just a bit frustrating.

I’m also wondering about the surviving Fomasi. We saw earlier that they can only communicate in language other than their native clicks and whistles when they’ve got a translating device on them, which speaks in the flat tone of Brock… so how do we know that this Fomasi is really the ambassador? Isn’t it just as likely that they shoved him onto the exploding space ship, took off their ‘West Lake’ badges, swiped back the translator, and then proceeded to kill all the surviving Argolins mere minutes after the Doctor and Romana have left? They’ve destroyed their main obstacle in the form of the warmongering Pangol, and the Fomasi could now claim that the Argolins started this second war, because Romana points out on a number of occasions that Pangols actions are declarations of conflict…

It’s a rather bleak way of looking at it, but I think I quite like it. It’s that idea again of the Doctor getting a bit too complacent (an idea I was keen on during The Invasion of Time), and being a bit careless as a result. I’m going to keep an eye on that throughout the season and see if I can find a theme of it - I might get my wish of him taking a fall under these circumstances after all! 

10 July 2014

Are you guys hungry for some of the best official band, movie, gaming and of course Doctor Who merchandise online? How about some of the coolest alternative clothing and street wear?

Well, just pay our friends over at www.fourleafclothing.co.uk a visit and we're sure you'll find exactly what you're looking for.

Fourleaf supply a huge range of T-shirts, hoodies, jackets, belts and bags from all of your favourite bands, movies, games, tv shows and comics! You'll even find more obscure items such as mugs, bottle openers, coasters and so much more...

What's that? Still not convinced? Well how about an exclusive discount off ANY order? Just enter the code DRWHO at checkout and you'll recieve 20% off your purchase!

+  Movies, Gaming & TV: http://www.fourleafclothing.co.uk/movies-gaming-tv~h-22
+  Doctor Who: http://www.fourleafclothing.co.uk/DR-WHO~c-3254

[Source: Fourleaf Clothing]

9 July 2014

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

Day 555: The Leisure Hive, Episode Three

Dear diary,

I can’t decide whether I’d be enjoying this episode so much without the sense of ‘new’ that pervades it. The plot isn’t particularly grabbing me, I’m still not entirely sure just what’s going on, and a lot of it seems to be a bit… dull. I think that if it were just another story from Season Seventeen, with that same design style, and the Doctor wandering around in what I’d still term to be his ‘usual’ attire, then I’d have probably been scoring a fair bit lower by now.

That said, I think today’s episode has been my favourite of the bunch - now you see where my uncertainty is coming from! The shock of everything looking a bit different has broadly worn off now, because I’ve had a few days of it in the new style, but there’s a few things in today’s episode which really stand out for me.

For a start, there’s the Doctor in his ‘old age’ form. In the ‘making of’ special feature on this DVD, Christopher Bidmead tells a story that Tom Baker wasn’t keen to keep this look up, and wanted to be reverted to his regular appearance as early as possible into this third episode. Supposedly, they talked him out of it by pointing out that the resolution to massive cliffhangers always comes really early on into the next episode (you can take the cliffhanger at the end of Episode One of this story as a great case-in-point of that), and that the real impact this time comes from keeping the Doctor ‘aged up’ for as long as possible.

All the same, I didn’t realise that he spends this entire episode (and, therefore, some of the next, presumably) in this form! Not what I expected at all. It’s quite good make-up, too - or it’s certainly working for me (I’ve seen it described as very poor elsewhere), and it’s quite nice to see Baker modifying his performance a little, too, to make a point of the fact that he’s now 1200 years old.

Then you’ve got the reveal of the Fomasi properly… and it’s a friendly one! The costumes for these creatures are another thing that’s come in for a bit of stick over the years, but I actually really like them. It helps that they’ve spent much the first two-thirds of the story only being seen in close ups or in shadows, haloing to build up a bit of suspense about how they actually looked. That one is finally shown in full, and he’s helping out heroes is just great, and it feels like an age since we’ve had anything like that happen. Still, large green aliens, who hide themselves inside human skin-suits? Had Russell T Davies been watching this one before the Slitheen were created?!

E-Mail NewsE-Mail Reviews
RSS Feed
News Key
News Home
General
The New Series
The Classic Series
Spinoffs
Merchandise
Site
Blog Entries
Reviews Key
Reviews Home
Books / Magazines
DVD / Blu-ray
Audio
Toys / Other
TV Episodes
Search
Advertisements
iWho - The Doctor Who App!
CompareTheDalek.com - The Doctor Who Price Comparison site
Become a DWO Site Time Lord / Cardinal