Time Lord Tees

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28 June 2014

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

Day 544: The Horns of Nimon, Episode Two

Dear diary,

It’s becoming quite a theme in this series to have the Doctor and Romana separated for long periods of time. In this episode, they don’t even get to stand in the same room together, or speak to each other. They’re close enough in the closing moments that I assume they’ll be colliding mere minutes into the next episode, but they spend much of the story quite far from each other. It strikes me that were this the 1960s, it’s the kind of trick they’d use to give the Doctor a week off - following Romana and the tributes all the way to Skonnos, and not touching on the Doctor and K9, drifting off somewhere in the TARDIS.

I can’t say that I’d have minded that situation too much. While there’s a lot to enjoy between the Doctor and K9 in this one (and I’m loving the beating that the console prop is taking - if I didn’t know better, I’d assume that they were planning to build a new one next season, so sending this one out in style first!), it’s really Romana that I’m finding the most interesting to watch. I said yesterday that I’d grown to love the pair of them being at a similar intelligence level, and it means that the Doctor’s absence isn’t felt all that strongly here when he’s not around. There’s even the problem of a Sonic Screwdriver being left behind, and he’s not even needed for that!

All of Romana’s sequences benefit from being slightly more interesting than the Doctor’s. Especially while on the spaceship, it’s nice to see her given a villain to face in the form of Malcolm Terris’ Co-Pilot. He’s one of those great breeds of Doctor Who villains - someone who’s nasty just for the sake of it. Yes, he’s keen to get back to Skonnos with the tributes so that they can begin a new war with the universe and take control again, but it really wouldn’t kill him to wait a few moments for the Doctor to return to the ship. Later, once they’re facing Soldeed, it’s great to see him lying so openly about the way in which the ship was repaired… and then getting caught out, and sent to his death. Right to the end, he’s willing to be a murderer just to gain the upper hand, and he’s even great when lying to the Nimon about his reasons for being in his labyrinth.

Ah, yes, the labyrinth. That’s the only thing about The Horns of Nimon that I knew before starting out on the story: it’s based loosely on the legend of the minotaur and the labyrinth (which made the reference to such an adventure during The Creature from the Pit all the more bizarre!) I didn’t know that it was a king of high-tech futuristic labyrinth, though, in which the walls move suddenly behind our characters, and new routes open up when they’re just not looking. It’s actually very well realised on screen, with lots lingering shots in which a character walks past a blank wall, then doubles back to find it gone. It’s always nice to be impressed by things like this.

When it comes to the NImon itself… well, it’s always been considered one of the weaker Doctor Who monsters, and it’s very clearly a man with an over-sized mask placed over his head. I’m not entirely sure if the design works for me (though I do like the way it’s echoed in the model work of the buildings - a nice touch), but I’ll reserve judgement for now until we’ve seen a bit more of the creature in action. If nothing else, I love that the horns light up when he’s attacking, and I realised that they would about three seconds before it happened - though I’ll admit that I was expecting (and hoping for, honestly) the ‘moving’ lights like those in the Gel Guard’s claws from The Three Doctors! 

28 June 2014

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: May 2013

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: June 2014

“The TARDIS brings the Doctor and Nyssa to a vast pyramid, floating in space. A tomb ship – the last resting place of the God-King of the Arrit, an incredibly advanced and incredibly ancient civilisation, long since extinct.

They’re not alone, however. Another old dynasty walks its twisted, trap-ridden passages – a family of tomb raiders led by a fanatical matriarch, whose many sons and daughters have been tutored in tales of the God-King’s lost treasure.

But those who seek the God-King will find death in their shadow. Death from below. Death from above. Death moving them back and forward, turning their own hearts against them.

Because only the dead will survive.”

Have you ever read The Ultimate Treasure? You’ll love it.  It was the first Past Doctor Adventure novel from BBC Books to feature the Fifth Doctor.  It had him alone with a female companion (Peri), was peppered with references to other stories (Kamelion here, hinting at a forthcoming explanation about celery-wearing there) and involved a group of less-than-morally-pure people trying to seek out an incredible reward, that perhaps isn’t quite the treasure they originally supposed it to be, by going through a series of quests that not everyone will survive.

On a completely different note, have you ever listened to Tomb Ship? You’ll love it.  It was the second main range release in a 2014 trilogy of stories to feature the Fifth Doctor.  It had him alone with a female companion (Nyssa), was peppered with references to other stories (Wirrn here, the HADS there) and involved a group of less-than-morally-pure people trying to seek out an incredible reward, that perhaps isn’t quite the treasure they originally supposed it to be, by going through a series of quests that not everyone will survive.

Pity the Fifth Doctor: he obviously stumbles upon these sort of set-ups.  He is fortunate though in that they are both good stories with just about enough differences to elevate it above the repetitive and continual comparisons.  I was expecting something enjoyable as I’ve liked all of Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby’s releases before, and in that respect, I was not disappointed.  Nor was I upset by developments that took place from last month’s release, Moonflesh, which perhaps flies in the face of my claim that having standalone adventure was refreshing! The developments here, however, do not feel crowbarred in or forced, and I’m looking forward to seeing what sort of resolution we get next month in Masquerade.

Where I felt this release was perhaps not as good as The Ultimate Treasure (he said, comparing again) is that the characters weren’t as stand-out, nor were the perils as well-drawn or interesting.  I don’t feel you ever get invested in any of the characters there, or feel any real threat or tension for them, which makes the central premise diluted somewhat and lacking the edge it should have.

Where this release scores major points is in good, solid writing for the three regulars (he said, not wanting to give too much away) and a very fun ending.  And, sure, we may have been in this territory before, but Tomb Ship is enjoyable enough to keep you listening and engaged across its four episodes.  I hesitate to describe it as another ‘good, solid episode of Doctor Who’, as repeating that mantra over and over raises questions of it own: namely, what makes a good, solid episode of this most eclectic of shows, and I’ll readily confess that I didn’t enjoy it as much as others, nor as much as what Rennie and Beeby have written before, but it was fun enough all the same.  Even if we have enjoyed it before elsewhere.

28 June 2014

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Mark Morris

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: April 2013

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: June 2014

“One wouldn't normally expect to find elephants, gorillas and rhinoceroses roaming free in Suffolk in the year 1911. One wouldn't normally expect to find an extra-dimensional police box at the same time/space location either. Two aliens, named the Doctor and Nyssa, exit said box, only to find themselves pursued by a hungry lioness – for they've landed in the private hunting grounds of the famous explorer Nathaniel Whitlock, who's brought together a motley group of friends and acquaintances for a weekend's shooting.

But one of Whitlock's guests isn't all they seem. One of them wants the secrets of the Moonflesh, the mystic mineral looked after by Whitlock's retainer, a Native American known as Silver Crow. Because the Moonflesh is reputed to have the power to call down spirits from another realm…

…and soon, the hunters will become the hunted.”

For whatever reason, I was put off listening to this play for quite a while.  Have I been busy? Yes, but not enough to justify the delay.  Do I like the Doctor/Companion combination? Very much so: Davison is one of the best doctors we’ve ever had.  So, what was it? I couldn’t say.  The slightly drab cover art? The premise, which did little for me? The fact it followed the events of last month’s Flip finale, which so… irked me? Maybe a bit of everything.

I do know, though, that I enjoyed Moonflesh a lot, perhaps because it stood in such contrast to some of Big Finish’s recent trilogies.  It feels completely standalone and devoid of the shackles and gimmickry of recent times, which is oddly refreshing.  It feels strange to say that, as historically Doctor Who does standalone more often than not, but with Big Finish increasingly linking releases and the wide and sweeping arcs we see on screen more often than not nowadays, having a standalone adventure is something that really pleased me.

The story concerns a big-game hunt, as mysterious stone, and a whole host of characters plucked from days of yore, extras in Black Orchid and adventure novels.  Things move along at a cracking pace, and true to form, everything that seems to be being set-up in the opening instalment of this tale is turned on its head by the cliffhanger and leads us into new territory.  Whether you prefer what comes next is a matter of personal preference, but for my money, it was a pretty solid adventure.  There is a lot going on here, from the rise of Feminism to the morality of hunting, from spiritualism to alien goings on, but Mark Morris balances it all rather well, with none of the elements becoming overbearing.

I was especially impressed with his supporting characters in the main.  The play stumbles slightly when dealing with Silver Crow, a character that comes perilously close to being a bit too stock-friendly-and-wise-native for my liking, but punches high with everyone else, especially Hannah Bartholomew, who feels like an older and wiser Charley Pollard in some ways but with a darker sense of morality, and the Whitlocks, who are very well drawn.

Morris has good form with regards to writing for Big Finish, with House of Blue Fire standing out especially strong, and also tackled Nyssa and the Fifth Doctor before in Stockbridge with Plague of the Daleks, and this is a stronger affair than the latter, whilst being not quite as good as the former.  What it is though is a very strong start to the trilogy and hopefully the sign of some more standalone and largely arc-free releases.  I do like the arcs when done well, but as I said in my review of Scavenger, they can at times lend themselves to having their cake and eating it.  There is none of that on display here, and the play is all the better for it.  Is it the greatest story ever told? No, but it’s a solid slice of adventure and, accordingly, I can’t imagine I’ll be holding off listening to Tomb Ship when it arrives for as long as I held off listening to this.

28 June 2014

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: William Gallagher

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: March 2013

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: June 2014

“Thursday 28 May 2071: the day the Anglo-Indian Salvage 2 rocket launches. Its mission: to clean up space; to remove from Earth’s orbit over a century’s worth of man-made junk…

From the viewing window of a nearby space station, the Doctor and Flip have a unique view of Salvage 2 as it sets about its essential task – and of the disaster that unfolds when Salvage 2 encounters something it’s not been programmed to deal with. Something not of human manufacture…

Back on Earth, the Doctor fights to save Flip from becoming part of a 500-year tragedy being played out in orbit, hundreds of miles above. And millions will die if he fails.”

****

So, here we are: the end of this current run of adventures for the Sixth Doctor and Flip, and what better way to end things by blasting off into space?

Inevitably, a lot of the previews of this play have muttered about the similarities to Gravity, which has had the downright cheek to do rather well in the Oscars around the same time this play has been released.  Both stories are set in space and involve missions going awry, but the similarities end there and the two stand very much alone after this. (Oh, and for the record, Gravity is the better of the two. Sorry, Scavenger.)

There are some things definitely worth highlighting about this play.  To begin with, it is by a long shot William Gallagher’s best script for Big Finish yet.  I was extremely impressed by the way he manages to take two characters at the start (Salim and Jessica Allaway) and transform them steadily over the course of four episodes from being very, very irritating and speaking almost entirely in soundbites with no hint of natural dialogue, to two very intriguing characters with a lot of heart behind them and added dimension.  In many ways, they represent the very best this tale has to offer: two characters starting out bland and developing well as the story carries on.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s a rare Doctor Who story indeed that pulls that off successfully.

On a similar note, the story has a truly brilliant Part Two, improving a lot on the opening instalment and really giving us a lot of energy, tension and plot.  It’s the best half an hour this story has, but that’s no bad thing given how strong it is.

It sadly falls down a little after this, relying on a few slightly old and familiar tropes and steadily wasting the character of Jyoti Cutler, a character so integral to the opening, played with a slightly variable accent by Anjli Monhindra (the rather wonderful Rani from the rather wonderful Sarah Jane Adventures).  However, its main problems lie not with the story itself but in the wider arc and plans that Big Finish apparently have afoot.  I should stress here that major spoilers are coming up, not just for this story but others from Big Finish’s main range of plays, so read on at your peril and don’t complain that you were not warned.

So.

Anyone keeping abreast of the ongoing Hex saga will be aware that Big Finish are increasingly reluctant to finish a character’s story, which is sadly to the detriment of the character themselves.  In short, it’s hard to invest in the build-up to a character’s farewell when the rug is continually pulled from under one’s feet.  Big Finish just about– just about– got away with it with Charley Pollard, but with Hex and now, in a way, Flip, it’s starting to get silly.  Because a lot of this trilogy has been building up to her departure, really, and setting up the start of a new trilogy of adventures with the Sixth Doctor and Peri, but at the last minute... we get none of this.  Instead, we are left with a cliffhanger ending, which is fun in some ways, but frustratingly in others.  Is Flip dead? No.  I mean, it’s not stated, but let’s face it, she won’t be, because that’s an ending and Big Finish aren’t so keen on those at present.  What it means is that we are going to have to twiddle our thumbs somewhat and wait for at least a year before anything is resolved, and in the meantime, the Sixth Doctor and Peri trilogy that has been built up will come and go (probably with a lack of definite resolution there, too) and then have another trilogy of adventures with Sixie and Flip and have to hope for a conclusion there, and if not that, then no hint that such a conclusion will be forthcoming.  Have it like Mary Shelley, where we know things come to an end, but there is no sign of that any time soon and an open ending looking to the future instead.  Do not build up to a departure and then not do it at the very last minute.  It’s just frustrating.

As for the play itself? It suffers from increasingly relying on cliché, but has enough sparkle about it and some good and, contrary to the plot, increasingly well-written supporting characters to recommend it.  Mainly though, it suffers from being part of this wider problem with lack of resolution, and in the end, that has dragged my rating of it down somewhat, which is unfortunate.

There’s teasing, there’s misdirection, there’s twists, and then there is having your cake and eating it, and I’m sorry Big Finish, I really am, but I for one am stuffed.

27 June 2014

At last! After what seems like an age, we are thrilled to unveil some more New Series News in the form of a cracking new promo image for the first episode of Series 8; 'Deep Breath'.

The image (which can be viewed in full, in the right-hand features column) features The Doctor and Clara in what seems to be a tweaked TARDIS interior.

To tie-in with today's promo image, the BBC have also released a teaser trailer (which you can view below), that includes some rather interesting dialogue: 

The Doctor: "Clara, be my pal, tell me, am I a good man?"
Clara: "I don't think I know who The Doctor is anymore..."


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

8.1: Deep Breath - written by Steven Moffat
8.2: [Untitled] - 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]

27 June 2014

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

Day 543: The Horns of Nimon, Episode One

Dear diary,

You’ll need to brace yourself, because this story marks something of a milestone for The 50 Year Diary, and for myself as a fan… because The Horns of Nimon is, I’ve just worked out, the only Doctor Who story left that I’ve never experienced in some way. Obviously, I’ve watched every episode that leads up to this story - you can click back through the blog entries here on Doctor Who Online and read them all (with, in fairness, the exemption of The Highlanders, Episode Four. Though I listened to the Target novel reading of that one, so I’ve still experienced it, he argued). Every story that comes after this one, I’ve seen all or some of.

Now, it has to be said that I’ve still got stories coming up which I’ve sort-of seen, but can’t really claim to have watched - Meglos, for instance. I have the DVD. The story played out in the background when I first bought it, but I was doing something else at the time. Aside from there being something with a cactus, I don’t really know what happens. The same could be said for Terminus. I’ve seen up to the bit where a door (or something) appears in the TARDIS (or something) and that’s all I know. Not sure I’ve ever made it past that bit. The same goes of Warrior’s Gate, which I know I’ve seen, but for all I remember of it, I may as well not have. Still! For all intents and purposes, The Horns of Nimon is officially my last ‘new/old’ Doctor Who story. It should feel momentous! It has to be the single greatest slice of Doctor Who ever produced! It needs to be a fitting capstone for my marathon! So far it’s… Well, it’s alright.

That sounds like I’m being negative, but I’m really not. I genuinely mean it when I describe this story as being ‘all right’. There’s several things in here that I’m enjoying (more on which in a moment), but it’s not exactly the greatest episode that I’ve ever watched of the programme. It’s simply a fairly solid slice of Doctor Who - it’s never going to be anyone’s favourite story, but I doubt that it’s anyone’s least favourite,m either (go on, prove me wrong! There must be someone, somewhere, who can fill both those rolls!)

So: things that I’ve liked about this episode. Well, for a start, there’s the Doctor tinkering with the TARDIS console, and Romana building her own Sonic Screwdriver. During City of Death I mused that I’d never been keen on the Doctor/Romana pairing as an idea. I worried that they’d have the problem Barry Letts always spoke of in regards to Liz - The Doctor needs someone who’s not on his level, so he can explain things. I worried that having Romana around would simply result in two very intelligent people swanning around the universe. Actually, that’s exactly what we’ve got, but it works! I’ve enjoyed them solving problems in a slightly different way (as, for example, in the previous story, where the Doctor is able to leave Romana to do complex things with bits of machinery while he goes off to do other important things).

I love the idea that in the middle of all these adventures, the pair are able to take some time off and have a lazy Sunday afternoon inside the TARDIS just getting on with their hobbies. The Doctor gets to mess around with the workings of his ship, while Romana becomes increasingly used to his way of life, and creates her own Sonic Screwdriver because she’s become accustomed to how useful it can be. It also makes her ‘I’ll need a screwdriver’ line in Nightmare of Eden all the more pertinent! You might remember that during the Second Doctor’s era, I used to track the evolution of the Sonic in the Doctor’s mind before it finally turned up in Fury from the Deep. There’s none of that journey to be had here - Romana realises how much she could do with one, so she builds it. Simple!

Away from the TARDIS, I’m quite keen on the spaceship set. It’s perhaps the greatest over-use of that typical BBC ‘science fiction’ panel that we’ve seen since probably the Pertwee years, but the actual bridge of the ship feels very real to me. Whereas Nightmare of Eden gave us your typical 70s spaceship with lots of flashing buttons and ‘futuristic’ controls, the bridge in this episode is barely held together. It’s a mass of cables, and wires, and it can possibly be best compared to the Ninth Doctor’s TARDIS - where the occupant has had to make modifications and patch things up as he goes, just to keep the ship running. The crew even complain about the dated, failing equipment not being up to task, and it feels so very much like conversations I used to have ten times a week back in my old workplace.

Then, once the ship comes under power failure, we get that familiar ‘camera shake’ while the actors throw themselves around a bit… but the set itself is moving, too! Wires and cables all get thrown around! Things fall off! When it finally goes up in smoke at the end, it genuinely feels as though it’s coming from real equipment finally giving up after years of service. This is closer in style to the types of set we’ll see in the new series - a future that’s far more rooted in reality than the sterile while and chrome visions of years gone by. I always love getting designs like this, so it’s certainly a thumbs up from me!

26 June 2014

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

Day 542: Nightmare of Eden, Episode Four

Dear diary,

I have to admit that I didn’t guess who the drug runners were before the reveal came. I’d suspected both Tryst and Dymond at separate points throughout the story, but I don’t think that I’d guessed they were in it together. I’m glad that it makes sense, though, and that you can go back through the narrative and see various hints in different places. Despite the mystery, and the fact that it wrong-footed me (always quite fun to find that you’ve been wrong!), I’m sad to say that Nightmare of Eden didn’t really grab me at any point right through to the end.

Oh, sure, this episode is similar to the other three from this story in that there’s things I’ve enjoyed about it, but it’s just not really come together for me successfully. I’ve delayed writing today’s entry for as long as I can, trying to think of a better way to explain that fact, but I’ve simply drawn a blank - this is just one of those stories which has not been up my street for one reason or another.

While I’ve been putting off the writing of the story, I’ve been looking in to the somewhat troubled production of the tale. Lots of Doctor Who, especially at this point in the programme’s history, has troubled behind-the-scenes stories, but this one seems to have been a particularly turbulent one. The special features on the DVD cover most of the reasons in quite a bit of detail - from the production of the model shots having to be done on video instead of film (as one commentator points out, they were able to shoot five day’s worth of model shots in two and a half hours… but they look like they were shot in two and a half hours!), and the costume department instead of the special effects team having to make the monsters, which everyone seems to agree is the reason that the Mandrels don’t really work. Despite all this, I’m still convinced that they’re a rather nice design, so there.

And then there’s the whole situation with Alan Bromley taking on the director’s role for the story, and then either resigning or being fired from his post, following multiple delays and cast criticism. Stories are often passed around of Tom Baker being difficult with some directors, and by the sounds of it, bromley was just the type of person to get on Baker’s bad side. Thinking back to his previous work on the programme, in The Time Warrior, I couldn’t recall it being especially bad (though my friend Nick did remind me of that exploding castle shot at the end), but there’s a fair amount in this story which has struck me as being a bit of a let down - chief among them the way that the Mandrels are so often shot in harshly-lit corridors!

I think, in the end, I’m simply going to have to file Nightmare of Eden away with stories like The Dominators as ones which don’t really work for me for some reason or another. Thankfully, I don’t think that this one hits the lows of that story, but it’s certainly not one that I’m going to be rushing to re-watch once the marathon is over.

25 June 2014

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

Day 541: Nightmare of Eden, Episode Three

Dear diary,

Of course there had to be some kind of clever, Doctor Who twist on the way - it couldn’t simply be something as relatively mainstream as a tale of drug smuggling (even if it does have some ‘crashed’ spaceships involved). I really rather love the idea that the new source of the drugs is the monsters stalking their way around the ship - and that when they die they turn into the drug (which, in fairness, seems a bit odd even by Doctor Who standards. I’m assuming that they simply turn into perhaps a key part of the drug?), it spins things off into a slightly more unique direction, and that’s perked up my interest in the tale somewhat.

Also keeping me involved is the fact that at this stage, I simply don’t know for sure who the drug smuggler is. I’ve been through more or less every character at some point throughout the last few episodes, and there always seems to be something crop up which manages to change my mind about it! To begin with, I was entirely sure that it was simply Secker trying to make a bit of money on the side, and leading the ship off course to try and make a delivery. Before long, though, he was dead and there was still a drug problem developing. On top of that, I also can’t decide now if the ship was purposely off course, or simply slipping because of his lack of interest caused by the drugs?

I’ve also gone through various members of Tryst’s team, including the trapped-in-the-projection Stott. He was lurking in the shadows, supposedly dead… it all seemed to point in his direction, especially when the evidence that the source of the drugs was the projector itself. But, no, it now turns out that he’s on the side of good, trying himself to uncover the smuggler! Ok, then, maybe it’s Della? There’s certainly plenty of evidence pointing in her direction. Or maybe it’s even Tryst himself? He’d certainly have the opportunity, knows the machine, and is funny about anyone else getting to touch it… That’s not even mentioning the captain of the other spaceship, or perhaps the captain of this ship, who’s simply hidden it very well… It’s certainly the part of the story which has been most enjoyable to me.

I’m also pleased to see that the Mandrels are given more of a chance in this episode. When they’ve been milling around in various brightly-lit corridors up to now, they’ve not really had any mystery about them. The epitome of ‘man in a monster costume’. Here, though, show in the dark and moody jungle of Eden, they come across as far more effective - especially during their initial appearance where we just see the great big luminous eyes moving through the shadows. It’s a shame in some ways that they couldn’t have been seen like this throughout the whole story - green eyes glaring through the smoke in the corridors, or just seen in small snatches here and there. They’ve suffered early - whereas this would have been a much better introduction to them! 

25 June 2014

One of the biggest requests we get here on DWO is from fans looking to buy a wide range of SciFi related clothing.

We recently came into contact with the awesome team over at Eyesore Merch; a Music and Entertainment merchandise company based in the UK.

Eyesore Merch stock a huge range of T-Shirts, hoodies, jackets, hats and bags from your favourite bands, Movies, TV shows, Comics and Video Games, and we’re thrilled to announce we have teamed up with them to introduce their range of Star Wars and Star Trek merchandise.

Whether you are looking for an 'Empire Strikes Back' or ‘Yoda' T-Shirt or perhaps an official Star Trek ‘Command', ‘Sciences' or ‘Ops’ uniform then you can be sure to find something that you’ll love within their extensive range.

Head over to the Eyesore Merch store now to check out the full ranges:

+  STAR WARS: http://eyesoremerch.com/film-tshirts/s/star-wars-tshirts
+  STAR TREK: http://eyesoremerch.com/tv-show-tshirts/s/star-trek-tshirts

[Source: Eyesore Merch]

25 June 2014

From now until the morning of 4th July, Cecily's Fund is auctioning 17 unique and exclusive mock school reports written by major celebrities through eBay for charity.

The celebrities - each recalled the real reports they received as schoolchildren and recreated them for this special auction. 

One of the celebrities is none other than The 12th Doctor himself, Peter Capaldi - you can bid on his report, here. You can also view the report in the features column to the right-hand-side of this news article.

All proceeds from the auction will go to Cecily's Fund, to support their work enabling orphaned and vulnerable children in Zambia to access education.

[Source: Cecily's Fund]

24 June 2014

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

Day 540: Nightmare of Eden, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I came in to today’s episode ready for a fight. I was looking to defend the Mandrel costumes to the hilt, but… oh dear. They’re not really given much of a chance, are they? After the slightly odd reveal of one at the end of yesterday’s episode, the poor creature is left to hang out of a hole in the wall, flailing its arms about while K9 shoots at it. The level of lighting on the set is giving us plenty of opportunities to get a good look at the design, and it’s not a great first impression.

That said, I do still really like the look of the creatures, and I’m still willing to say that they’re one of the better, more unique, creatures we’ve been given in the programme. We even get that ‘emerging from the smoke’ shot today that I was so expectant of during the last episode, and while it’s perhaps not quite as dramatic as I’d envisioned, it gives a much better idea of the monster than the earlier, swinging arms shot did!

I’m sorry to report, though, that Nightmare of Eden simply isn’t grabbing me in the way that many of the other recent stories have done. I’m not entirely sure what that might be, because there’s certainly a lot of great ideas on display, and it’s a story in many ways very far removed from your standard Doctor Who fare. I love that this programme can go from stories in which all of reality is threatened, then scale it back to a single planet, or here a single incident. Oh, sure, we’re told how much destruction this drug could cause if it’s allowed to get back out into the supply chain, but the whole story feels like its on a far smaller scale, and it’s nice to have that change of pace once in a while.

It’s strange, considering that there’s so many things to like about this one, that I’ve ended up with so little to say about it! Somewhat in desperation, I found myself casting around for people’s opinions on the story, and they all seemed to be generally positive! People all praised different elements of the story - from the fact that it’s not the kind of thing any other Doctor Who tale gives you, to the ‘genuinely funny script’, the ‘great characters’, and even that accent. And yet, there’s something about Nightmare of Eden which has simply failed to connect with me at all!

The one thing that most people seem to agree on is that the Mandrels aren’t really all that great - so maybe everyone has a different part of this story that they like, and mine just happens to be the slightly ropey monsters? 

23 June 2014

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

Day 539: Nightmare of Eden, Episode One

Dear diary,

For as long as I can remember, Nightmare of Eden has been interchangeable in my mind with both Underworld from Season Fifteen, and the next story in transmission order, The Horns of Nimon. All three represent stories that don’t really know a great deal about, and although they were broadcast over a period of a few years, they always sort of merged into one in my head. Looking at this episode, I think I’ve figured out why at least this one and Underworld have been so linked to me - this looks and feels more like a Season Fifteen story than anything we’ve had in a long time.

The design of the spaceship models (and the way that it opens with a shot of a spaceship flying ‘overhead’ reminiscent for Star Wars) is very in keeping with the kinds of model work we had in stories like The Invisible Enemy and, yes, Underworld, and the set design has something about it which feels as though it comes from that earlier period, too. In a slightly more subtle way, I think the Doctor changing his coat from that beige one that I so associate with this period of the programme means that even he seems to fit in with his earlier self.

While I’m on the subject of costumes, I’ve got to mention Romana’s. She’s one of those companions whose dress sense is quite often discussed within fandom, so I’m familiar with several of her ’styles’. The pink ‘negative’ to the Doctor’s outfit from Destiny of the Daleks (still, I think, my favourite costume), the schoolgirl look from City of Death, the flowing white gown under the last story, the riding gear from the next, the bathing suit from The Leisure Hive… Essentially, the list really found go on. She’s got a wardrobe that makes her instantly stand out among the companions. And yet, I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a photo of the costume she’s wearing in this story! A pity, really, because it suits her rather nicely, and I like it a lot!

As for the story itself… I don’t really know what too make of it yet. I’m surprised to find that it’s a story about drug smuggling, because that’s not a topic I expected Doctor Who to be covering, but that’s another example of the show being able to surprise me somewhat. On the whole, though, it’s not really gripping me yet. There’s certainly not as much humour as I’ve been used to for the last week or so (though that’s not to say that the story is completely devoid of humour - it seems to be coming mostly from the Doctor himself), and everything so far feels a bit like it’s setting everything up. Hopefully now that we’ve got the traditional ‘end of Episode One’ monster reveal out of the way, I’ll find myself caught up a lot more.

I have to confess that I’m a bit disappointed by the reveal of the creature here. For some reason, with a nice smoke-filled doorway being built into the script, I was all set to see the monsters come walking out of the smoke, and I thought it was going to look pretty good! I even had that shot planned out in my head because I was so convinced that it’s the way they’d do it. To find the reveal coming simply by having the creature lean out of a hole in the wall… it was a bit of a let down, it has to be said! 

22 June 2014

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

Day 538: The Creature from the Pit, Episode Four

Dear diary,

I mused to a friend yesterday that I was really enjoying this story, and they commented that while - yes - they also found The Creature from the Pit to be something of a guilty pleasure among their Doctor Who favourites, they felt that it all fell apart during the final episode. As the opening titles began to roll today, I wished that they hadn’t told me that, because all the goodwill I’d been building up over the other three episodes had suddenly been punctured, and I’d somewhat lost my enthusiasm for the story. I’m thrilled to say, therefore, that I’ve loved today’s episode! Haha! It didn’t fall apart for me at all, and I’ve hooted my way through this episode, enjoying the story and simply having a great time watching 25 minutes of very good Doctor Who.

Let’s get the standard stuff out of the way first - the things that I seem contracted to say at the moment. Tom Baker is very good again in this episode, lending a subtly different performance his voice work for Erato, almost to the point where you forget it’s him voicing the creature at times. Elsewhere, the comedy in the episode really works for me again, with C̶a̶t̶w̶e̶a̶z̶l̶e̶ Organon still proving to be a real highlight. Words can’t express how happy i am that he’s managed to survive through the story - I really though he was earmarked for death, and thought it had finally reached him during this episode. i guess it really was his lucky day!

I think what I’ve enjoyed the most about this episode is that it kept me guessing right through. Even from the cliff-hanger yesterday (one of those rare examples where it’s not one of our regulars in peril, or the reveal of a monster) leaves you wondering more about what is going to happen, rather than how the characters are going to overcome it. It’s not until today’s episode that we discover the shield to be a communicator, and there’s previously been hints that it could even be a kind of weapon - and there’ll be more on that in a moment.

But then you get the revelation of who, and what, the ‘creature’ really is very early on in the episode, and before you know it, Adrasta’s dead! I’m really pleased to see her being overpowered by the Wolf Weeds. They haven’t really featured since Episode One, and I didn’t really discuss them there (I was too busy admiring that jungle set!), but they’re actually brilliant little creations, and the props come across very well. I can imagine them working quite well as a threat in modern Doctor Who - they’re certainly the kind of thing that I can imagine creating a striking image! Once Adrasta’s been taken out of the picture, I did wonder exactly what was going to fill up the rest of the episode, but I wasn’t disappointed with what we got.

A lot of the stuff with the neutron star was fairly standard padding, although it’s nicely done. It’s also a ridiculous notion that I could only expect to find in Doctor Who (the alien turns out to be friendly, and able to spin an aluminium web around an approaching star!), and because I’m enjoying the story so much as a whole, I’m happy to just go along with all the nonsense and smile right the way through - it’s fun! It’s also not really the point of this episode, or really this story.

The main message to come through in this episode is that of greed, and how power can corrupt. We’ve been fed the image of Adrasta being hoarding of her precious metals right the way through the story, and the revelation of just how far she’d go to retain control has come out today, with the revelation of what she’d done to Erato when he came to the world with an offer of trade which would help the majority of the planet’s populace… but destabilise her from her ‘throne’. We’ve also had the barbarians, who have felt until now like filler material - really only there to provide some danger to Romana in Episode One, and to give us something to cut away to when needed.

Suddenly, though, they’re the ones in power! The corrupt leader is dead, they hold a large stock of precious metal, and they’re plotting to trap the creature here further so that they can remain in power as the new overlords of the planet! There’s a great parable about greed contained in this final episode, and it’s probably given just enough time to make the point, without it going on too long and becoming a bit overbearing.

I’ve mentioned above that the translator device is hinted as being a weapon in earlier episodes of this story, even if it’s only a throwaway thought from the Doctor. It’s interesting, though, because this is the first time in a while that it’s really felt like the Doctor’s greatest weapon is words. It’s a big point in the new series, and it’s something that I’ve touched on before in this marathon, but here we’ve got the Doctor’s prattling managing to convince people to hear him out, and he effectively leads the revolution just by talking sense. It’s always nice to see him wielding this kind of power, and it acts as a nice counterpoint to the last story, where the solution was brought about by someone getting punched! So, that leads us into Nightmare of Eden, and me wondering wether the solution will come from brains or brawn…!

21 June 2014

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

Day 537: The Creature from the Pit, Episode Three

Dear diary,

I seem to be saying, and realising, this a lot at the moment: but Tom Baker is really very good at being the Doctor, isn’t he? In today’s episode, we have a sequence lasting several minutes in which all the action is carried by Baker. He’s essentially left alone in the studio communicating with some green bin bags, and yet it’s absolutely captivating. Another thing I seem to be saying lately: it’s the best that he’s been in the role for absolutely ages. It really does feel of late as though he’s found his interest in Doctor Who again and has started putting the effort back in.

From about Season Fourteen onwards (certainly parts of Season Fifteen), it felt as though he was bored and just doing whatever the hell he fancied once the cameras started rolling, whereas here it feels like every action has been considered in a split second to suit the moment. People say that he’s the actor who is most ‘like’ the Doctor in real life, and I think we’ve gotten back to a stage here where I can really see that - and I’m honestly very pleased about it. I’ve had the opportunity to be quite down on his performance a fair bit over the last couple of months, so I’m glad that he’s found his stride and is hitting the high notes again, because it’s certainly helping to reinvigorate my interest in the programme again.

It also helps that this ‘version’ of the programme really seems to chime with everything that I enjoy in Doctor Who. People talk about the Graham Williams era being the ‘comedy’ years of the programme, and that’s never more in evidence than here in Season Seventeen, possibly stemming from the influence of Douglas Adams in the Script Editor’s chair. I’ve seen that description of this ‘comedy’ period used as something of a stick to beat the show with - I’ve said before that there’s a subset of Who fandom which doesn’t like the show being too silly about itself. But everything we’re getting at the moment just seems to work for me! It’s pitching the comedy just right for me to enjoy it, and I’ve found myself again laughing rather too loudly at a number of moments in this instalment. My notes are brimming with snatches of dialogue from all the characters, and I’m simply being swept along with the story, instead of stopping to worry too much about it.

Before it sounds like I’m falling a little too much in love with this story, I have to report that it’s not all good news. K9 is really starting to irritate again. It’s not so much the character himself - he’s given lots of things to do again, today, even if many are fairly run-of-the-mill (‘K9 - blast that wall/creature/mirror/person’) - but rather his new voice box which just isn’t working for me. The metal mutt is being more sarcastic than ever, which I’m really enjoying, but I just can’t take to David Brierley’s performance in the role. I’m sure there’s nothing all that wrong with what he’s doing, but I’ve been spoiled by being so familiar with John Leeson’s version of the tin dog.

It feels almost as though Brierley is trying to imitate what Leeson did while also taking it slightly in his own direction, but I’m simply left longing to hear our original K9 back again! I’m surprised, all these years on, that no one seems to have had Leeson record the lines and create an edited version of the stories featuring K9’s more familiar voice - there’s certainly nothing in the dialogue to indicate that he’s switched his settings (though it’s been pointed out to me today that it’s explained away by the ‘laryngitis’ comment during Destiny of the Daleks. That was over a week ago for me, and frankly I’d forgotten it, so I’m not sure it causes that much of an issue!) Someone call John Leeson, I’ll meet him at the recording studio! 

20 June 2014

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

Day 536: The Creature from the Pit, Episode Two

Dear diary,

Despite my mountain of praise yesterday for the jungle set in this story, I haven’t really missed it all that much in today’s episode. It certainly appears a lot less (I’m not sure we actually see much new footage there after the first few minutes), but everything else is being shot in such a way that I’m distracted by lots of other nice sets! Let’s start with the obvious - the titular ‘pit’. It’s shot on both film and video at various stages throughout the episode, but I’m pleased to say that it fares well under both formats. Obviously, the film sequences have a depth and texture to them that’s lacking later on, but all the parts of the episode set in this area are lit beautifully, which bridges the gap somewhat nicely. It’s another one of those instances where you get the feeling that it really is dark here, and that simply adds to the mood of the whole piece.

While I’m at it, I feel as though I should also mention the creature that lives in this pit. All I’ve previously seen of this story is the infamous scene where Tom Baker tries to communicate with the creature by talking into one of its appendages. From that sequence, I’d drawn the conclusion that it was a large creature, but nothing quite in line with, say, Kroll. I found myself rolling my eyes, therefore, when it starts being described as being ‘huge’. Then, we get to the final scene, and it turns out that the creature really is huge! How brilliant! I love that even after all these years, there’s still things about Doctor Who that can surprise me. I’ve managed to make it this far assuming that the creature wasn’t overly large, so I really got the full impact of the reveal. Every time something like this happens during the marathon, I worry that it will be the last time - but I always hope it isn’t!

Out of the pit, and up on the surface of the planet (for most of the running time, anyway), Romana is holding a lot of the action. I don’t think you’d necessarily realise that this is Lalla Ward’s first stab at playing Romana if you didn’t already know. There’s one or two little moments where she doesn’t seem to have quite worked out what she’s doing with the part, but I’m wondering if these are simply standing out to me because - subconsciously, at least - I’m looking out for them? On the whole, she’s really hit the ground running, and the character doesn’t feel out of place with anything we’ve seen in the previous two stories. I’m also loving the way that she gets to interact with K9 - picking him up to use as a gun is a great moment, and it’s always nice to see them finding new things to do with him. We’ve settled, lately, into a pattern of him sitting in the TARDIS until the Doctor or Romana get someone to blow the dog whistle and summon him. That exact formula comes into play during the first episode of this story, but he seems to be getting a bit more to do now that he’s joined the action. There’s another thing I can hope to continue.

I think on the whole, I’m mostly enjoying the humour of this story. Geoffrey Bayldon as Organon has to be chief of the supporting characters who are bringing comedy to proceedings, and I laughed heartily at his introduction (‘The future foretold, the past explained, the present… apologised for’). He seems to be filling the companion to the Doctor role in this one, while Romana is off doing her own thing, and I’m not really looking forward to his inevitable death as the story progresses! It’s another thing we seem to be seeing a trend forming for - supporting comedy characters who really help to make the story for me!

20 June 2014

Our friends over at Ultra Records are pleased to announce the release of Frontload’s newest track, appropriately titled ‘Dr. Who’.

Their latest beat combines the group’s signature electronic sound while modernising the popular Doctor Who theme song from the long running British television series, which is currently in its 51st year worldwide.

The owners to the publishing rights of the Doctor Who intro theme gave their stamp of approval by clearing the theme part of the track.

Dr. Who’ is a follow up to the group’s previous popular track titled Rebels (Wake Up).

Hear the listening track for 'Dr Who' via Ultra Music's YouTube channel, below:

+  Download Frontload’s ‘Dr. Who’ on iTunes, here.
+  Stream Frontload’s 'Dr. Who', here.

[Source: Elaine Karlsson Management]

19 June 2014

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

Day 535: The Creature from the Pit, Episode One

Dear diary,

I’m not entirely sure if Creature from the Pit is a story that’s generally frowned upon by fandom, or one that’s simply caught in that ‘no man’s land’, where things are neither good or bad, they just… exist. Certainly, it’s not a story that get’s talked about very often. It seems a shame, in a way, because this story contains a number of notable things in the history of Doctor Who.

It’s the last story of the series proper to be directed by old hand Christopher Barry, who’s been turning up intermittently since The Daleks way back in 1963 (I’ve never noticed before the odd coincidence that both Chris Barry and Terry Nation joined the series with the same story, have input across each of the first four Doctor’s era’s, and then bow out from the series just a few stories apart here). It’s also the first story filmed by Lalla Ward as Romana, as opposed to Princess Astra. We also get to hear K9’s new voice box for the first time, with John Leeson sitting this season out, and David Brierley stepping in to the role. Less noticeably, it’s also the last story to feature Terry Walsh, who’s been turning up in (mostly action) sequences for a while now, too.

Quite aside from all that… this is a very good opening episode! It conforms in some ways to the same ‘Doctor and companion arrive and explore for a bit’ format that Destiny of the Daleks did, but it does something interesting with it, and has them caught up in the local action at just the right time. Indeed, this is one of those episodes where the cliff-hanger comes and it feels like you’ve had two episode’s worth of action packed into one. We move from the TARDIS, to exploring the landscape, to capture, through fights and scenes with barbarians, the Doctor meeting the local ruler, being taken to the pit, and then the Doctor’s jumped down it… the story stops for breath when it’s needed (there’s some lovely lingering shots of the Doctor examining the ‘egg’), but there’s an awful lot going on in these first 25 minutes.

It also helps that whereas Destiny of the Daleks saw the Doctor and Romana exploring a familiar quarry, we’ve got a gorgeous setting here. People rave about the jungle set from Planet of Evil (and, in fairness, that’s a very good jungle), but I’m completely captivated by this one! It feels so very real, clearly based more on Earth jungles than the one in Planet of Evil was, but with just enough alien items, such as the egg and the wolf weeds to keep it interesting. We’ve also got an awful lot of ‘fog’ going on in the background, and I can’t help but think back to my comments during Planet of the Daleks that the jungle simply wasn’t foggy enough to create any mystery. I’d love to see a Dalek shot on this set.

Because of the scale of the set, and the fact that lots of this episode is set out in the jungle, large chunks of this one are shot on film, which really does help. Every few weeks I bring up my wish that all 20th century Doctor Who could have been produced on film, and it’s episodes like this one which really make me think about it. I worry that as the story goes on, we’ll be seeing more and more scenes set away from this lovely setting, and moved to the various studio-bound locations, which would be a shame. Still, if Christopher Barry can keep this kind of style up for the remaining three episodes… what a way to part from the programme! 

18 June 2014

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

Day 534: City of Death, Episode Four

Dear diary,

There’s something very, very, brilliant about the fact that this story - one in which so much humour has been centred around Duggen’s love of violence to get the job done - all comes down to the most important punch in history being thrown to knock out the alien bad guy. Doctor Who isn’t usually a programme which delights in violence, and indeed it’s unique standpoint is usually that the hero doesn’t use violence unless really necessary, but it’s always great to have a solution as simple as this once in a while.

I’m always impressed in this episode with just how well the studio set of the prehistoric landscape matches with the model work. There’s something really rather nice about the fact that this is the most-watched episode of Doctor Who ever on initial broadcast (16.1 million viewers - a fact often put down to ITV being on strike, but actually, by the time this episode aired they weren’t any more), and it’s one of the most accomplished. People talk of ‘classic’ Doctor Who being filled with dodgy sets, and acting, rubbish monsters, and poor model shots, and this episode manages to take each one of those things and shoot them down in flames one by one.

Quite aside from the great model shot and the matching studio set, you’ve got the design of Scaroth, which must surely be one of the most unusual and recognisable creatures from the full history of the programme. When they brought the toy out a few years ago, they made a decision to ‘shrink’ the Scaroth head compared to that of Julian Glover, to better give the impression that the human features were a mask to go over the green… thing. It never looked right, though, because it’s such a striking design that trying to change it in any way simply moves you in to the territory of spoiling things.

Then there’s the acting. Sticking with Julian Glover, it’s worth pointing out that he really does give a very good performance throughout this story. There’s a reason that he’s a known name in the acting world - and that’s because he’s very good at what he does. As if it’s not enough to have him cast as one of the major guest stars, you’ve also got Catherine Schell cast in the role of his wife! A veteran of films like On Her Majesty's Secret Service and The Return of the Pink Panther, she’s something of a coup for the show. Put these two in a scene together - as today, where the Count reveals to his bride exactly who he really is and berates her for never noticing, before leaving her dead - and you’ve really go something special.

The episode also features those famous cameos from Eleanor Bron and John Cleese - something which I never really appreciated when watching the story before, but now that I’ve grown to have a broader interest in archive television, it really means something to me. Plus, the gentle poking fun at the world of art critique is always welcome, and fits in so perfectly with the story.

Overall, City of Death has managed to justify its place among the programme’s greats. I don’t think I enjoy it quite as much as some people do, but I think it’s a tale I could watch again a year from now, and enjoy just as much as I have this time around. And again the year after. And the one after that, too. It’s a great example of what Doctor Who can be - and it’s no wonder that this is the story most people choose to use when introducing new viewers to the ‘classic’ years of the programme!

17 June 2014

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

Day 533: City of Death, Episode Three

Dear diary,

The further I get through this story, the more I wish that Duggan had stayed with the Doctor and Romana for longer than these four episodes. Can you imagine him being whisked off to an alien world? Punching an alien? It’s a similar dynamic to the Sarah/Harry one from Season Twelve in a way, only here the super intelligent aliens outweigh the regular people! He’s a real highlight in this episode, and he’s bringing out the best in Romana, too. I think this is probably the most that I’ve enjoyed her in this new incarnation so far, when she’s taking on the role of the Doctor, and doing all the explaining. I love, too, that she’s less used to ‘summing down’ for people, so she speaks to Duggan in the same way she’d explain things to the Doctor, and then you’re left just waiting for his reaction, and the punchline!

As if you can’t tell, it’s the humour again which I’ve been enjoying in this episode, and almost all of the characters get a stand out moment to really stretch their comedic timing. I think it works that no one (with the possible exception of David Graham as Kerensky) is sending up the material, but treating it with just the right balance of comedy and drama. It’s a very fine line to walk, but the script and the performances are all managing to stay largely on track with it all.

I think that my favourite moment from today’s episode has to be the way in which the Doctor distracts a Renaissance guard by taking a polaroid of the man and then knocks him out! In the same way as the Rock, Paper, Scissors scene in Destiny of the Daleks, there’s something about that sequence that’s just so very in keeping with what feels like ‘Doctor Who’. Realistically, though, I could cite almost every scene as being a favourite, and a very close second would be Duggan setting off the alarms after the Mona Lisa has been stolen! It’s those kinds of antics I’d love to see with him as a part of the TARDIS team. I’m somewhat surprised that Big Finish haven’t brought him in for any of their Fourth Doctor audios, yet, but I guess with Lalla Ward and Tom Baker teaming up for a full series in the near future, there’s the perfect opportunity on the horizon. Here’s hoping, anyway!

In today’s episode, we get a good examination of the way that Scaroth works - having been splintered through time during that explosion at the start of the story, he now lives through several time periods, having personas in Paris 1979, Italy 1505, some period of Egyptian history, what looks like the Crusades (oh, I hope he gets to meet Richard the Lionheart at some stage!) and several assorted other periods. He talks of being the man who caused the construction of the pyramids and who built the first wheel… he’s clearly been a major player in human history, nudging the species in the right direction to meet his needs (was he perhaps being controlled by the Silence without knowing it? If nothing else, he’s certainly been an inspiration on their creation).

That’s always caused me a bit of trouble, though… because I could never quite get my head around the way it all works. Were there one Scaroth, with a hugely elongated lifespan who had caused these things to happen as he went along… then fair enough. The fact that there’s so many splinters of them has always thrown me, though. Does he start each ‘splinter’ as a child, in the way it’s implied that Clara does when she’s split through the Doctor’s time stream? Does he simply arrive fully formed? How is each segment kept in synch with each other? Is it simply that they automatically ‘connect’ with a version at the exact same age but in a different time zone? Presumably, all the splitters eventually die, or there’d be lots of Counts around in 1979… it’s always been a bit too much of a headache for me!

16 June 2014

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

Day 532: City of Death, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I’ve not noticed it before, but this episode doesn’t actually feature any of the Paris filming, beyond those establishing shots of the Scarlioni residence, which are re-used from yesterday’s episode! I wonder if the lack of such ‘running through Paris’ padding has been partly to thank for my enjoyment of this episode more than yesterday’s? It’s not only that, of course - the fact that the story is underway, and that this episode contains far more interesting developments than the last episode also combine to create an episode that - on the whole - I’ve very much enjoyed.

The episode really hinges on the Doctor’s three encounters with Scarlioni, and the fact that each one of these is played in a slightly different way. That initial meeting in the drawing room is perhaps the most famous of the three, with that immortal line ‘my dear, nobody could be as stupid as he seems…’ summing up the Fourth Doctor (and Tom Baker’s) entire personality at this stage of the programme. This is then followed up by the later confrontation in the cellar, during which the Doctor gets the chance to interrogate his foe, receiving only brisk ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers in reply. The tables are then turned, to see the Doctor answering questions in a similar fashion. Of course, both of these scenes are there to set up that cliffhanger, and it’s one of the best we’ve had in ages. The Doctor has travelled back in time to visit Leonardo, and is set upon by a guard. His superior enters the room… and it’s Scarlioni!

Knowing how and why the man has been scattered throughout time means that I’d forgotten just how much impact that cliffhanger has - but as I say, it’s one of the best we’ve had for a long, long, time. Truth be told, I’m struggling to think of the last time a cliffhanger made me sit up and take notice as much as this one did, and I wish I could come to it clean, without the knowledge of what’s going on!

The main thing that I’m enjoying in this tale has to be the comedy elements. Adams was responsible last season for The Pirate Planet, a story where the comedy fell almost entirely flat for me. Here, though, things are on a much greater form. I think it helps that the story is set in the real world, and so there’s a more identifiable context for the jokes to be played in. Duggan is amusing with his blustering ways, because we all know someone like that. The Doctor is amusing as he goon around the laboratory, because we’re used to the Doctor doing that, but not often in this kind of setting (it’s strange that what would have felt like such a Doctor Who location only a few seasons ago - a large house with a home-made laboratory - feels so fresh and new here). And all of this takes place as part of a story which revolves around the theft of the world’s most famous painting. We don’t need to work to believe in this world - we already live in it.

It’s telling that almost all of my notes for today’s episode (and there’s a lot - I’ve not written so many for a while!) are snippets of dialogue, and almost exclusively that of the Doctor’s. Adams by now has a real handle on the way that Tom Baker plays the role, and so every line seems to have been written specifically for him, which seems to be keeping Tom in check a little more. He’s able to be commanding when he needs to be, but it never feels like he’s going over the top in the way he’s sometimes prime to doing! Even if things aren’t quite perfect for me, yet, I’m really able to see why people can love this story so much. 

16 June 2014

New Rock group; Space Elevator, have released a new track, titled 'I Will Find You (Gallifrey Dreams)', as a tribute to Doctor Who.

DWO visitors wanting to listen to the song can download it here: http://www.spaceelevatorband.com/mp3-download/.

The password to download it is Gallifrey and you also need to include your email address.

You can also watch the music video, which features the track, below:

 
Space Elevator’s Lead Singer (and huge Doctor Who fan) ‘The Duchess’ says:

“Quite simply, our debut album is all about space and would not be complete without a Dr Who song. The song is a tribute as I have a Time Lord crush in all his incarnations. There’s something there for every woman! He’s strong, intelligent, unobtainable (crucial), he will fight daleks and cybermen..he has two hearts.. lol! ...or maybe I’m the only girl that dreamt of what her own Tardis would look like inside?”

The album Space Elevator (Cat No SECD1) is Out Now at HMV, Amazon and all good record stores, with the vinyl album (SELP1) being released on 14th July 2014. 

[Source: Paul Sabin]

15 June 2014

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

Day 531: City of Death, Episode One

Dear diary,

City of Death is one of those Doctor Who stories that can’t be separated from its reputation. For years it’s been hailed as one of the all-time greats (it came in at number 5 in the recent Doctor Who Magazine poll, and by contrast, the next-highest Graham Williams era story placed at number 32… and it was Horror of Fang Rock, which was already underway before Williams fully arrived on the scene!). Former producer Julie Gardner has described the story as being the one which convinced her that Doctor Who could work upon its return to TV in 2005, and has praised the mix of drama and humour within. I’ve seen it a few times, but despite its status, I can’t really say that I have a strong opinion on it either way.

It certainly gets off to a good start in this episode, though, opening with a brilliant model shot which sweeps across prehistoric Earth and comes to rest on a rather unique design of spaceship. The Jagaroth ship is one of the more striking from Doctor Who history, and there’s a reason that it’s always stuck in the mind more than any of the mrs generic ships seen in other stories over the years. That the episode opens with it being blown up is also quite a strong way to begin the story, and gets you hooked in right away. There’s none of that leisurely pace we had in Destiny of the Daleks here…

…Well, not until we touch down in Paris, anyway. Joining the Doctor and Romana at the top of the Eiffel Tower reminds me of my problem with this pairing of Doctor/Companion - they’re just too… smug. I love the type of relationship that he has with Leela, or Sarah Jane, or Jo, where he’s the smart one, and he gets to explain things away to them as he goes. I seem to recall the Doctor and Romana sometimes becoming a little insufferable as they wander around the universe being very clever together. Still, I could be wrong about that, and I have a feeling that some of it may have come from the opening of this episode.

That slowed-down pace continues for a while, with the pair making their way through the streets of Paris. We follow them as they head from the tower to a cafe, then from thecae to the Louvre, and then back to the cafe once more… there’s an awful lot of walking, jogging, and running around in this story. That’s clearly the result of the production team trying to say to us ‘look! We’re actually in Paris! As in, really, honestly, there!’ This is the first of Doctor Who’s ventures abroad for filming, and it certainly does lend a slightly different feel to the story than I’m used to.

In some ways, it feels more amateur. There’s several shots where passers-by, or commuters on the Metro, simply gawp into the camera, wondering what the crew are up to, and it looks to all the world like a bunch of tourists have set up a camera in the middle of the street and shouted ‘action!’ to a man in a ridiculous scarf and a woman dressed up as a schoolgirl. I wonder if they thought all British television was like this? It also seems to constrain Tom Baker’s performance in places. I’m used to him being loud and booming, domination the screen for every second that he’s on it, but here and there - most noticeably during some of the scenes outside the cafe, it feels like he’s reigning it in. It’s a slightly odd experience, when I’ve become used to watching him get louder and louder for the last five seasons! He’s on his regular form in the studio scenes, though, flailing about when experiencing a time-slip.

Almost to counter-act the less polished feel of these location shots, it’s being directed more like a film than anything I’m used to seeing in an episode of Doctor Who. Shots taken though an empty slot in a postcard rack, or from the other side of a river, all have a slightly more artistic feel to them than usual, and although I enjoyed Michael Hayes’ direction for both The Androids of Tara and The Armageddon Factor, I can’t quite remember it being this filmic before.

I wonder if the story is simply suffering from that age old problem - because I know it’s supposed to be such a classic, I’m seeing faults more than I might otherwise do. Here’s hoping that as the story goes on, I can simply sit back an enjoy it, without the weight of its reputation bringing it down… 

14 June 2014

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

Day 530: Destiny of the Daleks, Episode Four

Dear diary,

For a moment, I thought that this episode instantly negated my theory about the Daleks splitting off into factions and only this group becoming robots. Davros kept banging on about them being robotic creatures in general, and if he doesn’t know, then what hope is there for the rest of us? Actually, though, I think it can be reconciled with my earlier thoughts - he’s just been brought up to speed with the events of his sleep by these Daleks, and they’ve possibly only described to him their decent into being robots, and neglected to mention their mutant brothers who are still out there spreading hate among the stars. There we go, that solves it. If you squint a bit.

In all, I think that Destiny of the Daleks feels a bit… lightweight. The Daleks have come to revive Davros to fix their computer, and then the Doctor tricks him into blowing them all up before he can even get close to the machinery. Story over. I don’t know that it’s particularly more lightweight than many other Dalek tales, but it certainly feels like everything just been a bit too leisurely for my likings. I’ve enjoyed lots of individual elements from the story, but I think this is one of those instances where the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

Still, even this final episode manages to give me lots of things to enjoy. Chief among them is probably the Doctor getting a race of war-like robots to play games of Rock, Paper, Scissors in order to teach them a thing or two about logic - that has to be one of the most Doctor Who things in the world, and I absolutely love it. I’m also keen on the number of Daleks that are milling around today. I some shots, there’s only 5 of them, but the way the camera pans across seems to make it feel like a lot more. Then, when they all start blowing up, they go in pretty spectacular explosions!

The most important thing about this episode, though, surely has to be the fact that it’s Terry Nation’s final written contribution to the world of Doctor Who. He’s been with us since 1963, and the programme’s second story, and has been responsible for 7-and-a-half Dalek tales (eight-and-a-half, if you want to count Mission to the Unknown as separate to The Daleks’ Master Plan), and two non-Dalek adventures. He’s come in for a bit of stick from me, over the years, for his particular brand of writing, but looking at his average scores, he’s not doing too badly!

For his Dalek episodes (I’m including Mission to the Unknown, and only counting Episodes One - Five and Seven for Master Plan), he averages 7.02 as a score. For The Keys of Marinus and The Android Invasion, his two Dalek-less stories, he comes in at a slightly lower average of 5.80. Still, considering that the Daleks are his lasting legacy to the programme (and the world!), that’s not bad going!

13 June 2014

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

Day 529: Destiny of the Daleks, Episode Three

Dear diary,

Ah, of course. How did I manage to forget about the central premise at the heart of Destiny of the Daleks - that the Daleks are robots, and thus they’ve had to return to their living (just about) creator to resolve their troubles. I’ve not actually watched this story before now, so I didn’t realise just how prevalent that is throughout, but this episode is filled with references to the Daleks begin robot creatures. Romana claims that the Doctor knows more about the Daleks than anyone… so the Movellan captain claims that he must be an ‘expert on robotics’. As if to hammer the point home to us, the Doctor even finds some kind of gooey Kaled mutant out on the wastes of Skaro and muses that the Daleks were ‘originally’ organic creatures…

It really does just sit uneasy with everything else we’ve ever been told about the Daleks over the years, and that it comes so out of the blue - in a story written by the man who invented them - just feels really bizarre. Still, I’m not entirely sure that it’s impossible to reconcile this notion with the rest of Doctor Who history. It’s generally accepted that the Cybermen of the classic series ended up branching off into two separate castes (some remaining ties to Mondas, and being reduced to skulking about the galaxy once it gets blown up, and the others relocating to Telos), and we know that by the late 1980s, the Daleks had developed a plot and started fighting amongst themselves.

I think there’s an argument to be made (almost) that a group of Daleks, perhaps most prominent in Skaro’s ‘local’ part of space, could have slowly developed themselves into more and more robotic creatures, until they went almost Cyberman with their approach, and ended up stripping out everything. Emotions gone, flesh gone, and - in the end - the little bubbling lump of hate gone, too. This particular group of Daleks could have ended up caught in this current impasse while the rest of their race are off ravaging the universe with the little mutants locked away inside their casings as normal. I think, unless anything comes along to contradict that in future Dalek stories, this is how I’ll be choosing to think of this situation from now on.

I’m more dismayed to see them being reduced to lesser characters again in this episode, now that Davros has woken up. They don’t need to fill the role of ‘bad guy’ in the story anymore, so whereas Episode Two saw them shouting and interrogating Romana while gliding around looking powerful, this episode reduces them almost to being Davros’ personal guard, out patrolling the surface of the planet, and wandering down corridors on the hunt for their creator. It does mean that we get a great few minutes in which the Doctor threatens his greatest enemies with a bomb (it’s not often that we get to see the Doctor do something quite as… powerful, as this, so it comes as quite a nice shock), but even that then dissolves into the Daleks gingerly picking the bomb off their father’s casing and then getting blown up for their troubles. All that great Dalek action from yesterday seems to have well and truly petered out now!

My biggest complaint, though… there’s a lovely scene in The Stolen Earth, when Davros looks up at the screen, with the Doctor’s ‘Children of Time’ all massing, preparing their own solutions to end the Dalek occupation of Earth, and several other planets. He looks up, sees Sarah Jane Smith peering round the side of Captain Jack and muses that she was there on Skaro, at ‘the very beginning’. I love that moment. It’s such a nice little addition, and it makes it all feel so much richer as a result. There’s a few pages in Russell T Davies’ The Writer’s Tale, where he toys with losing the line because he’s so short on space in the episode, but I’m glad it managed to survive the cut, because it’s just so lovely.

That line has slightly spoilt Destiny of the Daleks for me, because when Davros awakens here, knowing that he’s been entombed for several centuries, and finding the Doctor baring down on him almost instantly, he doesn’t even flinch. He’s not surprised to find the Time Lord there waiting for him. He’s not yet locked into his on-going battle with the Doctor that will span several lifetimes for the both of them, so it feels like a real shame that he doesn’t pass comment about the fact that this person is still meddling in his life. I assume that Terry Nation was trying to simply make this a direct continuation from his previous Dalek tale, and so didn’t want to make the point that the Doctor had been gone for so long between them, but it just feels… lacking as a result.

But for all the slightly odd little dissapoinments in this story… I’m enjoying it! For a start, and as I’ve said before, it does look gorgeous. I’ve already praised the Movellan spaceship, but we get some nice shots of it again today, so it’s worth mentioning again. Then you’ve simply got the flair of the story. Because it’s the first Doctor Who story to use a steadicam (I think I’m right in saying that it’s the first BBC production to use one - as a trial to decide if they corporation wanted to go ahead and buy some!), even scenes of the Doctor running around in a quarry are looking more impressive than they might usually do.

It’s also helped by director Ken Grieve having a good eye for certain shots - there’s a few lovely moments when the Doctor is evading his hunters, and we get to see some pretty extreme angles looking up at both our hero, and the Daleks patrolling the tops of the cliffs above him. It’s perhaps not the most original image a Dalek story has ever given us (and in a Terry Nation script, would you expect anything other?), but it certainly works well, and I think the visual feel of this story is going to stick with me after I’ve finished it more than the narrative itself will…

12 June 2014

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

Day 528: Destiny of the Daleks, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I have to confess that I was a little nervous about starting on this story. Genesis of the Daleks fared so well with me, and went a long way to living up to the ‘classic’ status it’s always had, and I worried that it might ruin other Dalek stories for me that followed in its wake. Actually, though, I think the fact that we’ve had such a long break for the pepper pots since then has really worked in their favour. I’ve grown to really enjoy them over the course of this marathon, but I’ve not actively missed them over the past few months. But as soon as they start screaming and shouting in this episode, I was just glad to have them back. They’re such fun to have around, and actually, this batch of them are nasty.

During their brief confrontation with Romana right at the very start of today’s episode, where they bark orders at her (‘is-that-under-stood? is-that-under-stood? SPEAK!’), is actually quite frightening, and I’m not sure if I can remember the last time I actually found one of the Daleks menacing. They keep that up throughout the rest of the episode, shouting at her during their interrogation, and sneaking up on the Movellans ready to shoot in the corridors. I’m really enjoying the Daleks themselves, and I’m worried that they’re going to become second fiddle now that Davros has woken up.

That would be a shame, really, because as much as I’m enjoying them, I’ve loved the brief bit of Davros that we’ve had in this episode, too. From the Doctor realising what his foes must be digging for, and deciding that it was too bizarre, even for them, right up to the moment that they find the forgotten corpse of the creator sitting alone in the lower levels (Emma: “Davros needs a dust”). During those closing moments, when the light comes on, and the hand begins to twitch… yeah, it’s all rather exciting.

And yet, I can’t help feeling that we need a non-Davros ‘buffer’ story between Genesis of the Daleks and this tale. We see the creatures exterminate their leader, and then they go off to conquer the cosmos, without a second thought for their founding father. And then, in the story after that, we find them back on Skaro, trying to dig him out. It would work nicely as a part of Tom Baker’s final season in the role, as a nice counterpoint to their confrontation in his first year. As it is, is feels as though Davros is always a part of the Dalek stories, and from Genesis onwards in the classic era, that’s true. I’m sort of complaining for the sake of complaining, there, and looking at it with thirty-something years of hindsight. I’m enjoying Destiny of the Daleks partly because of Davros, not in spite of him.

Somrthing else I’m liking about this one is that ‘start of a new season’ feeling. Like The Ribos Operation last year, it’s clear that they’ve just been handed a pot of money with which to make the new season, and they’ve gone a little bit mad with it right out of the gate. The Movellan spaceship impressed during yesterday’s episode, and continues to do so here, and the Dalek control centre works rather well for me, too. There’s so much to both of these sets, and the use of steady cam means that they’re constructed in a way that’s slightly different to any Doctor Who sets before them. My only worry with this is that the money might be stretching it by the time we reach the season’s end…!

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