Time Lord Tees

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31 October 2014

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

Day 669: The Mysterious Planet, Episode Two (The Trial of a Time Lord, Episode Two) 

Dear diary, 

When Colin Baker first took over the role of the Doctor in The Twin Dilemma, he instantly won me over. Even when he was having to strangle Peri, or collapse in fits of manic laughter, there was something about the gusto with which he want for everything that completely worked for me, and I really enjoyed. That's not to say that I haven't enjoyed him in the stories since, but I think this may be the first episode in which he's really felt like the Doctor. There's lots of little moments in this episode - both in the dialogue and in the actions - where he's simply felt like the Doctor that I know and love, and I really can't remember the last time I felt that so strongly about this incarnation. Indeed, there's several lines here which I could easily imagine Tom Baker's Doctor saying, and I don't know if that's simply Robert Holmes managing to summon back up some of his old ability? 

There's lots about this story which I'm really enjoying, and that does have to be placed firmly at Holmes' door. He's managed to create a world that I'm buying in to, and more so this time than I noticed on a previous viewing. I think my favourite moment has to be Peri's discussion about husbands, while being held prisoner; 

GLITZ 

Obviously she's a romantic at heart. 

PERI 

Well, so am I, but not romantic enough to want more that one husband. 

DIBBER 

Where we come from, a woman can have as many as six. 

PERI 

Oh, it's very similar on my planet, except we usually have them one at a time. 

I just know that this is a line which would have completely passed over my head as a child, but listening to it now elicited a rather hearty laugh from me - and it wasn't the only one for this episode. There's plenty of moments that have really managed to entertain me, and I think that's probably the best you can hope for! 

In the past, I've often seen people complain about the constant interruptions to the narrative from the trial room itself, and I've never really shared in those complaints. As far as I've ever been concerned, they're a fun part of the stories, and I recall rather linking them as a slightly different way of looking at the stories for a few episodes. That said, in today's episode, for the first time, I did suddenly understand where the complaints may have come from: there's at least two interruptions which came at just the wrong point, and completely took me out of the narrative. I then spent the rest of the episode wondering if there could be a way of editing this episode to omit them entirely. I think, with a bit of fiddling, that it probably is possible, but I'm sure that later on in the trial, once it starts to become less clear what's real and what isn't in the tales being relayed to us, that it becomes near-impossible. I'll be interested to see how I feel about these trips back to the court come the end of the story... 

Something else I'd just like to touch on today - and it's not something that I've really had cause to mention for some time now - is the musical score for this episode. It's Dominic Glyn's first soundtrack for a Doctor Who story, and it's really enjoyable! It first came to my attention during that gorgeous model shot at the start of yesterday's episode, where the beautiful cathedral-like space station was introduced with ominous bells and organ music. It set the tone perfectly, and he's managed to keep the music in this episode varied enough to keep my interest up, too. Glynn will be providing scores for several more stories over the final few seasons' of the programme's 'classic' run, and I'm looking forward to hearing them. 

He's also the man responsible for the theme tune to this season of Doctor Who. Now, I have to admit that I'm not that much of an expert on the theme tunes (and most of the time I don't even notice when they change from story-to-story. Certainly, as I've worked my way through all the episodes for this marathon, I've not ever really thought 'oh, they've changed the theme tune... even though I listen to it every day...), but I know this one comes in for a fir bit of stick. I'm not sure if I dislike it, though, and I'm certainly finding myself singing along with it as the episodes start up. Today, I even found myself watching the closing credits and singing along with those, too!  

30 October 2014

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

Day 668: The Mysterious Planet, Episode One (The Trial of a Time Lord, Episode One) 

Dear diary, 

I can remember getting Trial of a Time Lord on VHS. For one birthday, I'd made a list of several Doctor Who tapes I'd quite like, in order from the ones I was most keen to see through to the ones I was less desperate for. This one topped the list. I mean, when you look at the facts on paper, it does sound pretty impressive, doesn't it? The programme returns from an eighteen-month hiatus with the longest story they've ever made - fourteen episodes - in which the Doctor is put on trial for his life by his own people, and the villain turns out to be... an evil incarnation of the Doctor from the future! Oh, come on, when you're a young fan, you can't help but love a description like that! I was thrilled when I unwrapped the TARDIS- shaped tin containing the videos on my birthday (my tin has Patrick Troughton on the bottom, for those of you who like to keep track of those types of thing!), and I recall really enjoying the story, too. Certainly, it kept me much more interested an entertained than The Key to Time season would a few years later! 

And what a start it gets off to! That opening model shot, of the space station hanging in the stars is good enough in itself... but then the camera comes sweeping down over it! Oh, how I love it. I must have seen it a hundred times over the years, because it's just so good. Easily up there with the best effects that Doctor Who has ever had, and a great one to show people who complain that the old programme had rubbish effects. No it bloody didn't, look at this! Oh, and step away from that Warriors of the Deep DVD, this is what Doctor Who always looked like... promise. I really like the design of the space-station, too, all those spires like a cathedral, and each one topped with a little glowing light... it's just such a beautiful model, and it almost fits with the visions I have of Gallifrey, the ones I spoke about during The Deadly Assassin. This is ancient gothic architecture mixed with futuristic grunge, and it blend perfectly

I'm not sure the same can be said for the sets of the inside of this station, however. I rather like the set of the actual trial room itself - there's something about the scale of it, and the way that the golds set themselves off against the black drapes that form the walls, but it's really the corridor in which the TARDIS arrives that I'm not keen on. It doesn't feel as though it exists inside that beautiful cathedral structure that we saw to start with, and I can never quite reconcile them in my mind as the same place. Still, I'll be seeing plenty of it over the next fortnight, so I'm sure I'll have chance to get used to it! 

From this episode up until the end of the 'classic' run in 1989, the  programme has switched over to being entirely videotape - even for location shoots. We've seen the show dabble with this before in Tom Baker's era, of course, but I've not been looking forward to it over the last few weeks. More and more, the programme has been giving little moments to remind me just how much better it looks on film than video tape, and I know that there's a few stories coming up (notably in the McCoy years) where shooting on videotape only means that stories can come across as poor quality, because the source material just isn't as good. We're not off to a bad start, here, though. It's certainly true that the outdoor scenes look flatter than they would have done on film (and I think that forest would have looked stunning shot that way), but it doesn't look as awful as I was expecting. I think that having such an interesting location, with all the thin little trees obscured in the mist of an autumn day is probably helping matters. Now, I'm hoping that getting off to such a good start with this new 'all-video' approach will make the transition a bit smoother for me. 

As for the story itself... well, there's lots to like, isn't there? We've got several hallmarks of classic Robert Holmes cropping up again for his final story (he'll be back with Episode Thirteen of Trial, but not another complete adventure), and chief among them is the partnership of Glitz and Dibber. Hands up, I love Sabalom Glitz. Always have, always will. Indeed, having seen Trial of a Time Lord, I rapidly moved Dragonfire up my list of stories I wanted to see, simply because I was keen to see more of the character! He's absolutely trademark Holmes here, with his speech about the way he struggles to come to terms with the 'more pertinent, concrete aspects of life' a particular highlight. 

He's not the only one being given some great dialogue in this episode, either! A few months ago, I was talking to someone and they mused that Colin's Doctor doesn't get any great speeches during his tenure. They cited examples from all the other 'classic' Doctors (Hartnell's 'one day I will come back' from The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Troughton's 'some corners of the universe' from The Moonbase, 'being frightened' for Pertwee from Planet of the Daleks, Do I have the Right from Genesis of the Daleks for Tom Baker, Davison's 'summer cloud' in Frontios, 'every decision' for McCoy from Remembrance of the Daleks, and the speech about shoes from McGann in the TV Movie - as an aside, it seems that Dalek stories really inspire great moments from the various Doctors!), but said that Colin never really got anything as magical as that. I'd argue that he gets two in Trial of a Time Lord - the speech about corruption later on in proceedings, which I'm sure I'll mention again when the time comes, and also one from today; 

THE DOCTOR 

Planets come and go, stars perish. Matter disperses, coalesces, reforms into other patterns, other worlds. Nothing can be eternal. 

I think that's probably my favourite moment of Colin's Doctor, and certainly as good as any of those other examples. It's beautiful dialogue, and a wonderful delivery. 

29 October 2014

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

Day 667: Revelation of the Daleks, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I'm not entirely sure what the point of this one was. The Doctor and Peri have come to Necros to pay their last respects to an old friend. But then it transpires that people in Tranquil Repose aren't actually dead, but rather in suspended animation (or are there dead people there, too? I sort of lost track of this bit…). It also turns out that the Doctor was summoned to pay these respects as a lure by Davros, to bring his old foe to the planet he's been hiding on since escaping from the Daleks last season. But… Um… why? Davros doesn't have any real trap laid out for the Doctor once he gets there, just the opportunity to stand around and say 'aha! It's me! Bet you didn't see that coming!' Indeed, once the Doctor has fallen for Davros' ruse and come to the planet, he doesn't actually do anything! He spends that entire first episode walking to the location, then spends most of today just standing around! He blew up a Dalek eyestalk at one point, but that's it! Very odd.

I also can't let today's episode pass without mentioning my least favourite thing about this story - Jenny Tomasin's performance as Tasambeker. I've never really been able to get my head around what she's doing here, and I think today I've simply realised that it's terrible acting! There's a way of over-acting which can work very well for Doctor Who (and, indeed, there's examples of it in this story), but Tomasin is going so over-the-top that it simply becomes a parody, and what could be quite a nice little character study goes completely out the window, because it's taken over by such a ridiculous performance. Thanks to having the subtitles on now, I at least know that her line when killing Jobel is 'to earn his favour, I have to kill you' - because in the past, I've thought she was working for someone called 'Earnest Baber', and that confused me no end!

The other characters in the story work much better for me with the actors playing them. Several of them are, as I've mentioned, somewhat larger-than-life, but I think that helps to give the story its own somewhat unique flavour. Orcini is great fun, and I really enjoy the way that he and the Doctor communicate largely through simple looks and tiny nods throughout much of the confrontation with Davros. Speaking of whom, this is Terry Molloy's second outing as the Dalek creator, and it's perhaps more… ranty than he was last time. Much of this episode requires Molloy to play the part as though he's a complete raving lunatic, but I think it works well enough, and he really gets in to it! It has to be said that while Davros is being shown to us as simply a head in a jar, he's actually quite scary - especially when the head suddenly turns round at a great speed to confront another character!

It's also time for another part in the build up to the Time War, I think. That makes it twice in one season! Davros is here developing an entirely new race of Daleks using human tissue. Could it be that besides wiping out the original Daleks who aren't faithful to him any more, he's starting to prepare for the oncoming war? It's always struck me that you'd have to branch out like this at some point - there's only so many Kaled Mutants left after the war on Skaro, so at some stage, you'd need to start looking for an alternative source of flesh. The next time that the Doctor comes face-to-face with the Daleks, it's going to be completely a part of the Time War, without any need for fudging events a little bit - we're really heading towards it now!

29 October 2014

DWO’s Spoiler-free preview of Episode 8.11: Dark Water:

 

It’s (almost) the end, but the moment has been prepared for…

 

It doesn’t seem possible that we’re already starting out on the finale to Peter Capaldi’s incredible first season as the Doctor, having been from the banks of the River Thames, via Sherwood Forest, the Bank of Karabraxos, Coal Hill School, The Orient Express (in space no less), and now onto our final destination: the Underworld.

 

For the first time since 2011’s The Rebel FleshThe Almost People, we’ve got a Doctor Who story told in two parts. In some ways, it feels as though they’ve slightly lost the knack for telling such stories, and you occasionally get the impression that this is really all one big prequel for next week’s episode proper. Here, we’re simply watching as all of the pieces are moved into the right positions, and we’re brought up to speed with everything we’ll need to know to fully appreciate the events of the final episode proper. To that end, don’t be surprised when several clips from the ‘Next Time’ trailer last week don’t surface here, because it’s not their time yet.

 

That’s not to say that Dark Water isn’t a good episode in itself, but it very much does feel like only half the story, and it’s difficult to truly judge it without seeing the second half. There’s plenty to keep your attention glued to the screen here, though, and you’ll need to be paying attention to really make sure you’ve got everything you’ll need going forward. By the time the opening credits have started, you already know that this is an episode that won’t be playing it safe, and that it really could go anywhere from this point - there’s no guarantee that everyone will be making it out alive.

 

It’s also very much a finale designed to perfectly cap off the adventures that we’ve been seeing across this year’s stories - and it wouldn’t have anywhere near the impact it does without them. We welcome back Samuel Anderson as Danny Pink once more, and get to see the next stage of his relationship with Clara, and it’s this which is central to the plot. Every scene they’ve shared together so far has been building towards this, and it’s the type of story that needed an unbroken run of episodes to really evolve. Even people who aren’t huge fans of the couple will surely feel a few pangs of emotion at their situation.

 

But with these 45 minutes, the stage is set, most of the players are in place, and we’re in a good position to really see the series out with a bang next week. Probably best not to go in to this one expecting all the high energy and excitement of the trailers so far, though, because we’re not quite there, yet…

 

 

Five things to look out for:

 

1) “I don’t deserve a friend like you…”

2) Seven Hiding Places.

3) The Twelfth Doctor finally gets a chance to do some Tenth and Eleventh Doctor-style kissing…

4) It’s not a fish tank.

5)“The time line disintegrates. Your time line.”


[Sources: DWO, Will Brooks]

29 October 2014

Peaker Pattinson Auctioneers have been in touch with details of a unique Doctor Who item that they are auctioning as a result of the sale of BBC Television Centre.

Interested fans can bid on a canvas used as promotion for Series 5 of Doctor Who, featuring Matt Smith and Karen Gillan.

The full item description is as follows:

"Doctor Who canvas back drop, 3.5m long x 2.5m high approx. 1500x1500x1500mm ‘BBC’ white & black cubes Qty various BBC TVC building signs & name plaques. 2x BBC ‘Politics Show’ freestanding screens."

+  You can bid on Lot 4012, using the online auction site, here.

[Source: Peaker Pattinson Auctioneers]

28 October 2014

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

Day 666: Revelation of the Daleks, Episode One

Dear diary,

This is more the relationship that I like to see between the Doctor and Peri. Yes, they're poking fun at each other's weight and having a bit of a bicker, but it comes across more as good-natured joking around than anything malicious. I think it's clearest when the pair are trying to scale the wall into Tranquil Repose, and the Doctor makes a point of saying he may not be able to lift Peri, considering how much she weighs. She then calls him 'porky' in response. It feels perhaps more natural to a real friendship, where you might joke around and call each other names, and I think I quite like that. I could have done without all the innuendo with the Doctor's fob watch, though! This is the last story in which the Doctor is given his very 'rough' persona, before it all gets toned down a bit for Trial of a Time Lord. On the whole, I've enjoyed the concept of having a less-likeable Doctor, but I think they did mis-step a little bit in first giving him four episodes at the end of the previous season (leaving the audience nine months before the next one to muse on the fact that they don't like the new Doctor), and in planning to soften him across his entire era - I think we needed to see more of this incarnation's softer side as this season wore on, just to reassure us that he's the same Doctor underneath it all.

This is also the last story to feature 45-minute episodes during the 'classic' run of the programme. Again, I think it can be a good idea - the 21st century series has shown that - but the production team at this point just haven't quite known what to do with them. In the making of documentary on the Attack of the Cybermen DVD, Eric Saward comments that he liked the 45-minute format because it allowed you longer to really flesh out your characters, but I don't think many of the writers have really done that! Robert Holmes has still been the master with The Two Doctors, and even Saward himself is doing a better job than usual of populating his world in this story (though here perhaps more than ever, you can see him trying to emulate Holmes' style), but I think episodes have largely felt a bit clunky this season. It was most highlighted in Timelash, when the episodes just dragged on-and-on, well past the point when I would have comfortably have liked a break from them. I'm almost wondering if I might watch that story again at some point with the international-style cliffhangers reinserted to make it four episodes - it could fare better!

Thankfully, there's a lot more to like in today's episode than there was in the last few. I really wasn't sure what I'd make of this story - it's been so long since I've seen it that I couldn't remember a great deal. I think I quite like it, with plenty of action going on to keep me interested, and I almost like the fact that the Doctor and Peri don't actually get involved with the main plot at all in this first half. I'd worried that it would feel like it was taking the mick too much, but it's allowed the cast of guest characters to firmly establish themselves before our regulars arrive. I'm looking forward to seeing what it's like once the two worlds collide - I don't think we've ever had so much time setting up the guest cast before the Doctor or his companion meets them, have we?

Perhaps the one slight disappointment that I've got about it is the way the Daleks have been used. We're introduced to their part in the narrative without any fanfare - we simply cut right to some of them in Davros' lair. I know I used to joke about the fact that the 'Episode One Cliffhanger' would be the pepper pots turning up, even though we know they're in it from the title, but I sort of want a bit more of a song and dance made of them. The best Dalek moment in the entire episode, for instance, is as we watch the Doctor and Peri walking off down a large ramp into the complex, and suddenly behind them, right up close to the camera, a Dalek whizzes by. That's actually scary. If we hadn't seen the Daleks in the story yet - and if you didn't know that they were in it - I think that would be a real 'heart skips a beat moment'.

It would also be helped by the fact that we've got Daleks in this episode quite unlike the ones we're use to. Back in Day of the Daleks, I complained that in the colour-era stories, the Daleks always looked a bit rubbish. They're tatty, and broken. The different props have been mixed and matched and put together wrong, so they don't fit. The paint work has been touched up in dribs and drabs, where you can still see the wet patches, and they're that dull grey colour. It worked well for the bleak Genesis of the Daleks, but they just don't have the flair or style of the 1960s versions. But here! Oh! They're white and gold! They're brand new, and I've always loved this colour scheme on them. It adds to the moment when one glides past the camera, because you're almost not quite sure. It looked like a Dalek, but could it be…?

This episode is also home to the glass Dalek, and it's - you've guessed it - another image that's been seared on my brain from reading Doctor Who: The Legend years and years ago, before I saw this tale. There's something so wonderful about the idea, and I love the way it's been lit, sat up on its little platform. Beautiful. I'm sure that a similar creature appears in Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks, and it's no wonder that it's made the jump from page to screen, because it's such a beautiful visual concept.

While I'm on the subject of visuals - how lucky were they to have been hit by so much snow during the filming of this one? That opening shot of the TARDIS arriving on the bank of a river, with the snow being blown around by the wind, and the winter sun sitting in the sky… oh, it's beautiful. As the Doctor and Peri explore, you can't help but think that there really is something a bit alien about all of this, and it seems so perfectly suited to a story that's so steeped in the tones of death. I can't help but think that had they filmed this simply on a regular wet autumn day, it would have looked pants.

28 October 2014

The celebrated actor and writer Mark Gatiss will be the special guest speaker at an event in London on 30th November celebrating Galha LGBT Humanists, a network for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender humanists. 

Gatiss, is well known for writing for and acting in programmes like Doctor Who, Sherlock, and The League of Gentlemen, and is a firm favourite on both sides of the Atlantic, appearing in fan-pleasing recurring roles in shows like Game of Thrones and Being Human

Mark has been a firm supporter of campaigns for LGBT rights, as well as humanist activism, over many years. At the Galha Annual Lunch, he will be talking with guests about his commitment to these issues, and toasting to another successful year for Galha, which brings together LGBT people for special events and promotes equality and diversity, particularly in respect of sexual orientation and identity matters.

The lunch, which will be at Browns Covent Garden in central London, will see Mark honoured with the 2014 LGBT Humanists award, and will also feature a fundraising raffle. All profits will go directly to funding Galha’s activities.

Riccy Unwin, Chair of Galha LGBT Humanists, said:

"Mark is a fantastic actor and writer, and we couldn’t be more pleased to have him as the guest of honour at this year’s Annual Lunch. The Annual Lunch is always one of Galha’s most popular events, and this year is shaping up to be a very special occasion. Any fans of Mark ’s who are curious about what we do and would like to come along are more than welcome to join us at Browns on 30th November."

+  Tickets for the event are on sale now at: www.humanism.org.uk/LGBTlunch

[Source: GALHA]

 

27 October 2014

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

Day 665: Timelash, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I don't know if I'm just in a more forgiving mood today, but this episode has been much more enjoyable than the first one was. Even some of the sets that seemed ridiculously bland yesterday have grown on me - and I rather like the light design on the wall of the Council Chamber! Not all the decor is to my tastes, though - the mural of the Third Doctor I could do without. It just seems far too much a fan-pleasing exercise than a good idea…

If I'm being honest - there's lots that I've enjoyed in this episode, but I think the whole is a great deal less than the sum of its parts. Lots of the things that I've liked don't really bare talking about at any length, so among them are the android's voices (and the way that they seem to be so at odds with the stature and shape of the creatures), The Timelash itself (I know it looks a bit rubbish, but an image of Colin being lowered down it on a rope is another one that captivated me as a young fan, seeing it for the first time), the cell that Peri is chained up in very briefly (possibly the best set in the entire story - a great design that wouldn't feel out of place in a German Expressionist film), and the smug look that Colin has on his face when he's ten seconds in the future and gets to push people; he science is nonsense, even by Doctor Who standards, but he just looks so pleased about it.

There's two things in today's episode that really are worth mentioning separately. The first is the make up on the Borad. Let's be honest, it's some of the best make up in all of Doctor Who, from 1963 right up to now. It's a great design, it's been well applied… yeah, it's hard not to like. I think I'd go as far as to say that it's the best thing in the entire story, and it's sort of a shame that it's let down by everything else around it - make up like this would still be the best thing in a fairly good story, so why waste it here!

The other thing I've loved… Herbert! Haha! I've never noticed before, but you wait nineteen years for a real-life historical figure to put in an appearance (the last such instance was right back in 1966 and The Gunfighters), and then you get two in one season! After George Stevenson, we've not got H. G. Wells, too. And you know what? I rather like the way that he's been used in this story - usually, we go in to them knowing who our famous 'historical celebrity' is going to be, but this time it comes as a surprise reveal in the final few minutes. There's loads of allusions to Wells' work throughout Timelash, but I'm not overly familiar with his stories, so I can't claim to have picked up on them all.

I just think that Herbert works ridiculously well with Colin's Doctor, and he's even become another one of those characters that I'd love to see return in an audio adventure some time - putting him up there with the likes of Duggan! I laughed out loud ridiculously hard when the Doctor has forcibly removed Peri from the TARDIS, only to take off and be confronted with Herbert. There's something about the way that they exchange 'hello' before getting in to everything! I love the scene in the first episode, too, where Herbert comes wandering out from the TARDIS corridors to explain that the ship is bigger on the inside… and the Doctor simply replies 'I know!'

Sadly, Herbert getting on so well with the Doctor comes at a price - he's especially awful to Peri in this story. Their relationship has never been quite as pleasant as, say either the Third or Fourth Doctor with Sarah Jane, or the Second Doctor with Zoe, but it's felt in the last couple of stories that they've settled into a groove where they bicker and argue, before they hug and make up, and simply love being with each other. In Timelash, he's perhaps worse to her than at any other time (even when trying to kill her!), and that's also put me off the story just a bit.

Sorry, Timelash, but great make-up and Herbert just isn't enough to stop you from becoming my lowest-rated story.

26 October 2014

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

Day 664: Timelash, Episode One

Dear diary,

Although I try to keep an open mind about every story in this marathon as I reach it, I have to admit that I've been dreading this one. Unlike, say, Underworld, which had a bad reputation, but I'd never judged for myself, or The Twin Dilemma, which I'd enjoyed in spite of such an awful reputation, Timelash is a story that I can remember coming away from on a previous viewing and actively thinking that it had a well-deserved reputation for being rubbish. Ever since, it's existed on my list of 'stories I don't plan to watch again'. Now, this isn't the first time in this marathon where I've come across such a story, and it can usually swing wildly in one direction or the other - I'll either come away loving it because it's better than I'm expecting, or I'll hate it even more because I've spent the last few days being so sure that I would. Sadly… I think we're falling in to the later of those two categories.

Something that's been becoming more and more prevalent this season is that the Doctor and Peri spend such a long time in the TARDIS. In this episode, they don't make it out of the ship until something like 23 minutes through - in 'old money', that would mean the entire first episode stuck in there! It's a trend that's been steadily growing for a while now (especially through the last two seasons, but it started as far back as Season Eighteen), and I think I'm just a bit bored of it. There was a time, when I was quite a new fan of Doctor Who, when the more time spent inside the TARDIS, the better the episode was - I was absolutely fascinated by it, and loved a chance to just look at the console room. Now, I'm not so sure. I'm also not keen on the way that the TARDIS is being set up this season.

Put simply, it no longer feels like a powerful time and space machine in the way that it did right back at the start of the programme, and it's all down to the way it's being treated. In Vengeance on Varos, when the Doctor retires to muse on the rest of eternity being spent in a dying ship, he sits on a garishly 1980s chair, that just happens to be plonked in the console room, away from anything else! It doesn't feel as though it's part of this console room at all (and neither, for that matter, does the entirely different chair which occupies a similar spot in The Twin Dilemma). Way back when, the TARDIS console room used to contain a little wooden chair, and various other odds and ends like that, but they somehow seemed to fit in perfectly with this strange place inside the police box. During the events of The Edge of Destruction, for example, the chair Barbara has to slump in doesn't feel incongruous, it simply feels natural that it should be there. I think the fact that the TARDIS is now less a collection of different elements - different attempts at making roundel walls, and fault locators, and ceiling lights - and more of a white void, coupled with the fact that the chair is so dated by being made in the mid-1980s, really does harm it.

In today's episode, it's the sudden appearance of straps being used like seat belts which feels out of place. When the Second Doctor gets up from regeneration and starts rummaging through a chest in the TARDIS console room, pulling out knives and cloaks and mirrors, it somehow feels natural. Similarly, when the Tenth Doctor does the same in The Unicorn and the Wasp, I'm somehow able to suspend my belief for long enough to just accept it. Here, though, it simply feels odd, and completely out-of-place with the set. If anything, it comes across as an excuse to pad out the running time a little (and I think I'm right in saying that the second episode, at least, did need some padding out with extra TARDIS scenes, so I may not be that far off the mark…!)

All that said… maybe they're better off being stuck inside the TARDIS, because the set design on Karfel leaves plenty to be desired. I get the impression that they're going for a kind of totalitarian minimalism effect - all blank walls and very little to inspire the people - but it just comes across as looking bland. Note how much more interesting it all looks, and how much my attention picked up, when we go in to the… I don't know, 'power chamber'? Suddenly, the lights are down, and they're trying something interesting with the colours. The sets aren't just flat blank walls, but rather there's some detail to them. Even the bland costumes look rather nice when there's some shadow to them!

I've little else to add, really, because Timelash simply isn't inspiring me to talk about it all that much! I'm in the sorry position of simply wanting to get tomorrow's episode over with, so I can move on to something that's hopefully a little bit better…

25 October 2014

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

Day 663: The Two Doctors, Episode Three

Dear diary,

The one part of this story that I've never been very keen on is the Second Doctor's transformation in to an Androgum. It's always just felt a bit odd, and seemed like such a strange thing to do to Patrick Troughton - surely if you'd got the Second Doctor back for one story, you'd want to spend as much time as possible with him simply being the Doctor? Watching it this time, though, I suddenly 'get' it - Patrick Troughton is absolutely relishing the part, and I dare say that he's giving a better performance as an Androgum than he is as the Doctor! He's really going for it, and I can't help but love that!

It's nice that he gets to spend some time with Colin Baker in this episode, too. I always think of the Second and Third Doctors failing to get on with each other, but the way that these two gently tease each other is brilliant, and I'm almost sorry that we don't get more of it. From the way the Second Doctor tells his Sixth self not to expect any thanks for saving him, through to the little jibe at the end about keeping out of each other's way… it's all just such good fun! There's a clip on Youtube from an American showing of Doctor Who in the 1980s, where they have a quick chat to Troughton, and ask him to introduce one of Colin's adventures. He makes a point of referring to Colin's Doctor as 'miss piggy', and it's clear that the good-natured playfighting continues well beyond the screen - I can imagine that the pair of them had a great deal of fun, sending each other up in rehearsals!

I figure that this is also the perfect point to bring up one of my favourite legends about the programme. There's a long-standing rumour that at one point in the 1980s, Patrick Troughton came back to the show and played a monster (possibly only for a single scene during the studio day). I've never known of the rumour being confirmed at any point… does anyone know? I'm aware that Troughton stood in for Peter Davison during some of the camera set ups on Castrovalva, but I'd love to think that he's inside a monster costume at some point in this period! It wasn't that long after this story that Troughton died, and so the thought that he may have made just one more appearance somewhere is appealing!

As for this story on the whole… Oh, I can't help but quite like it. The Sontarans are bumbling fools (but they're rarely anything else), lots of the stuff about the way that time machines work doesn't really tally with anything else we've ever been told about them, and there's really no point at all for being in Spain, but everyone is clearly having a good time making the story, and that enthusiasm is infectious.

I'm also wondering if I can find a way of incorporating this one into my ever-growing narrative of the Time War. The Time Lords are worried about the emergence of potentially viable time machines within the Third Zone, and send a Doctor to help… could it be that it's because they're worried that the Daleks might get their protrubances on one of the crafts? Equally, could it be that the Sontarans don't want the machine simply for the reasons they claim here, but because they're still trying to 'audition' for the Time War (as I postulated during The Invasion of Time)? Or, even, is it viable to imagine that maybe Chasene isn't simply working for herself to take over the universe, and is actually working for some more Dalek-y pay masters behind-the-scenes? 

24 October 2014

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

Day 662: The Two Doctors, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I can clearly remember buying this story on DVD. I was at college, and we'd taken a trip to Cambridge for the day, for some reason. I'd decided at some point on the route down there that I'd be picking up this story at some point, and when the time came, my friend Ben and I slipped off to the local WH Smiths to collect it. I recall this distinctly, because when the time came to pay, I realised that I was a few pounds short, and I remember being overjoyed that Ben agreed to foot the shortfall. On the trip home, I tried to explain the plot of the story to him (by this point, I was fairly clued up on most of the general plots of the older stories), and he was completely baffled by the fact that there could be two Doctors in one story. I only bring this up because it's another one of those weird coincidences that The 50 Year Diary throws up from time-to-time. I've only ever been to Cambridge properly that once. When I travel back home from Cardiff now and then to visit family, I sometimes end up at Cambridge station, but we're only there a matter of minutes and there's not a great deal to see. Today, though, I'm trying a bus across the country, and it just so happens that while I'm watching this episode on my iPad… we've pulled up outside the WH Smiths in Cambridge! The exact shop that I bought this DVD from seven or eight years ago! These little coincidences do crop up from time to time, and they always fascinate me a bit!

Anyway, today's episode. It's all a but of a mixed bag, isn't it? On the one hand, Robert Holmes is peppering the script with lots of his trademark elements, and that' always fun to have. On the other… it feels as though everything is just a bit wasted. We've got Patrick Troughton back as the Doctor for three nights only… and he's spent most of it either unconscious or strapped to a table (at times, both! I'll come back to the Second Doctor in a minute). We've headed off to Spain for the annual trip abroad… and it doesn't look all that much like there was any point. Oh, sure, the Hacienda looks nice enough, I guess, as does the olive grove, but I'm not convinced that they couldn't have replicated this kind of look back home for a bit less money. I think I'm right in saying that before they ended up in Seville, this story was planned to take place in New Orleans, which may have added more character perhaps? Still, I know we venture into the town itself in the next episode, so maybe that will help out a little?

So, the Second Doctor. As I've said, it feels almost as though he's being wasted in this episode. He gets some nice scenes in yesterday's instalment, getting to do his conversation with Dastari, but here he really is kept under wraps a fair amount, isn't he? It's telling, I suppose, that Patrick Troughton can still absolutely shine even in this diminished state, though. His chat with the Sontaran is fantastic, and I really laughed right the way through (of particular highlight was him asking 'tea time already, nurse?' as a trolley of medical equipment was wheeled in, and then commenting that the Sontaran's don't have faces built for laughter.)

Speaking of the Sontarans… I can never quite make my mind up on this pair. For a start, they're that bit too tall to be Sontarans (In my write-up of the species for the Doctor Who: Adventure in Time and Space Role Playing Game, I made a point of saying that Sontaran scientists are somewhat taller than the regular soldiers. It doesn't quite hang together, but it's close enough for me to squint and believe it), but it's really the masks that I'm not sure about. I think they're very good - the features are harder set and more 'militaristic' than any of the previous versions we've seen - and they've lost that heavy eye-shadow they'd become so fond of for The Invasion of Time. But then, the mouths don't really work, with the actor's lips visible behind the sculpted Sontaran lips. That's off-putting. And then there's the fact that the neck-rings seem to have beed just placed on to the costume, and not affixed in any way! There's several shots in today's episode where they seem to just float independently of the body, and that certainly doesn't look right to me!

And then you've got the Sixth Doctor and his companions. I've not really touched very much on the way that the Sixth Doctor and Peri's relationship seems to work - where he's often a bit of an arse to her, and she simply goes along with it - but I think this story shows it up very nicely. He is an arse to her, but you can see that they share a deep bond under all of that. Peri seems to go along with him because she knows that under all the pomposity and bluster (and rudeness, let's be honest!), he's a very good man, and she's proud to travel alongside him. As Clara said recently in The Caretaker, you get to see wonders, and Peri's willing to put up with this guy for those! I think she's the perfect companion for him in many ways, and I always love it when she cuts right through his showboating and brings things back down to earth. We get it in today's episode, where he ruminates on the approaching end of the universe, and then announces that it'll take a 'very few centuries' to occur. Peri laughs this off, and ventures off to find Jamie, leaving the Doctor performing to an empty room.

Jamie is working very well here, too, for that matter, and I'm enjoying the way he bounces off the Sixth Doctor. I think if I had to pick my favourite exchange from the episode, it would be from the Doctor trying to explain his different incarnations to the Highlander;

JAMIE
He's not the Doctor I know.

DOCTOR
I am too, Jamie McCrimmon. I am another aspect of him, just as he is of me.

JAMIE
Eh?

DOCTOR
I was him, he will be me.

JAMIE
Who will I be?

Although I'm longing to get just a bit more time of Jamie with his Second Doctor, I'm glad that he works so well with the Sixth, at least. By the time The War Games rolled around, and we waved goodbye to Jamie, I'd had more than enough of him, and was ready for him to leave. Enough time has passed now, though, that it's great to see him again - I'm glad to have him back, if briefly! I know he was paired with the Sixth Doctor again on audio a few years ago, and I think that might be worth checking out once this marathon is complete!

23 October 2014

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

Day 661: The Two Doctors, Episode One

Dear diary,

The Two Doctors has always felt like a bit of an oddity. It's not an anniversary story, like The Five Doctors, or an excuse to bring back all the previous incarnations, as in The Three Doctors, but rather an excuse to get Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines back together again for a bit of a knees up in Spain. Who am I to complain about that, though? There's something a little bit magical about the way the titles fade into a black an white image of the pair (heightened by the fact that the titles are especially saturated today!), and the story starts off from there. Indeed, we don't even see Colin Baker's Doctor until almost ten minutes in to the episode!

The only issue that I now have, coming to this story having watched all the episode that precede it, is how wrong it feels for the Doctor and Jamie to be talking so casually about running a mission for the Time Lords, and the fact that he's able to pilot the TARDIS so well (for him, anyway). When I first saw The Two Doctors, it was simply The Second Doctor coming back in to the programme after many years away, and that was simply brilliant. Now it's all just a bit… off. I'm not going to go wildly in to the theory of Season 6B (I've never really decided if I like it as a concept or not…), but I can at least understand why people feel the need to explain these oddities away - they really do stand out.

Having had the Second Doctor and Jamie taking up the majority of the tale for the first ten minutes… we then barely see them again for the rest of the episode! The space station is attacked by an unseen menace (though we already know it's the Sontarans), and then we're more-or-less with the Sixth Doctor and Peri for the rest of the running time. That's not a bad thing, though, and in fact it may be some of the best time we've spent with the Sixth Doctor so far. There's something so sinister about the way that the Doctor comments on the work being done on this station 'threatened no one', and being answered by a booming voice, 'it threatened the Time Lords…'

I almost wonder if I would have liked that to come before we spend any time with the Second Doctor? It would be a wonderful hook for opening a story - the Doctor collapses and feels unwell, he goes to see Dastari, finds the station in ruins, hears the booming voice of the computer… and then starts to remember the last time he visited the station. Cue Jamie and the Second Doctor arriving at the station in their TARDIS, and deciding to slip in quietly. There's nothing wrong with what we've got here, but it seems odd to have such a wonderful mystery being set up for the Sixth Doctor while we already know what's happened!

While I'm on the subject of the station - isn't it a lovely design? I really like every bit of it, from the main station design right through to the service areas down below. There's something very 1980s about the style, but it really appeals to me. It also look fantastic when the Doctor and Peri get to explore in the dark, silhouetted against small pockets of colour and light. It's not often that Peter Moffat gives us something this well executed, so it's always nice to see when he does!

23 October 2014

To celebrate the DVD and Blu-ray release of Doctor Who: The Complete Eighth Series, BBC Worldwide is delighted to announce an exciting fan event to be held on Monday 17th November featuring the stars of the show. It will be the first chance the cast have had to reflect on the thrilling conclusion of Peter Capaldi’s debut series in front of 140 lucky fans at a central London location. 

BBC Worldwide has 70 pairs of tickets to give away for this exclusive event. Fans will be treated to a special screening followed by a Q&A with members of the cast. All they need to do is visit doctorwho.tv and correctly answer the multiple choice question, when they will subsequently be entered into a prize draw. The competition opens today and will close at 23.59 on Wednesday 29th October. Winners will be selected at random and will be notified within seven days of the closing date. Unsuccessful applicants will not be contacted. Fans should only enter if they can travel to London for the afternoon of the 17th November. The event venue will be disclosed to winners on their invitation closer to the time. 

Frank Skinner commented:

“When they asked me to host this event I was over the moon. Luckily the space-dragon incubation period is such that I was in no real danger. I have so many questions I want to ask and, when we're all talked out, I'm planning to finish off by crowd-surfing for 10 to 15 minutes, dressed as Chief Engineer Perkins.” 

This event continues BBC Worldwide’s celebration of a new Doctor in the world’s longest running sci-fi series. Earlier this year, Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman travelled the globe visiting Doctor Who fans in Seoul, Sydney, New York City, Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro and later this month the interactive and immersive attraction in Cardiff Bay – The Doctor Who Experience – will reopen with an updated adventure featuring the Twelfth Doctor.

+  Series 8 of Doctor Who is released on DVD & Blu-ray from 17th November, priced £49.99

+  Preorder Series 8 of Doctor Who on DVD via Amazon for just £40.84.
+  Preorder Series 8 of Doctor Who on DVD via BBC Shop for just £34.99.
 

[Source: BBC Worldwide]

22 October 2014

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

Day 660: The Mark of the Rani, Episode Two

Dear diary,

Well… we do have to spend a lot more time in the studio today than we did in yesterday's episode, but we still get a fair few sequences shot out on location, too, where the direction really does continue to be fantastic. It feels a bit like I'm watching a proper drama, with lovely close-ups of the actors, and beautifully composed three shots. I think, if there's one thing I'll be taking away from The Mark of the Rani, then it'll be just how good it looks.

There also needs to be a certain amount of love given for the location that they've used here. I think I'm right in saying that this story carried a dedication from the BBC to the 'Ironbridge Gorge Museum', where much of the story was filmed, and it's not hard to see why. I often find myself in stories like this praising the way that the BBC can build fantastic historical sets in the studio, but this is probably the best location that we've had for a historical tale in ages. I have a feeling that even going off for a holiday in Spain for the next episode is going to pale in comparison!

I'm also compelled to praise the Rani a little bit more with this episode, because she's brilliant! This story makes quite a point about the way the Master operates - seemingly always obsessed with killing the Doctor over anything else - but it also presents the Rani as the character that should be the Doctor's nemesis. Do you remember, back in The Mind of Evil, how I praised the way that the Master was able to control all of the events while sitting quite happily in the back of a car, smoking a cigar? Or the way he moves all the pieces in The Time Monster, sat in a high-backed chair before a fireplace? That character hasn't regenerated into the Master that's been doing battle with the Doctor from Traken to Sarn, that character became the Rani as we see her here.

She's not on Earth with some diabolical plan - she's here because she needs to be. There's no grandiose attempts to take control with robots shaped like the king, or huge radar dishes. She's here, she's set up everything she needs, and she's getting on with it. I also love that when the Master tries to get her assistance in killing the Doctor and taking control of Earth, she points out that she doesn't need to do that - she's already the ruler of a planet, and she's quite content, thank you very much. I'm even impressed by a fact about the Rani that's always left me a little cold in the past. It's said that she was exiled from Gallifrey because she bred giant mice, and one ate the Lord President's cat. It's always seemed like such a silly idea to me in the past, but the way that Kate O'Mara delivers the line is wonderful.

I can't talk about this episode without mentioning another one of the most famous things about it… the trees. Oh dear, the trees. I'm sure you know the story: Luke has been hypnotised by the Master. He's led Peri off to get her out of the way. The Rani has set some lethal land mines for the Doctor. Luke steps on one of these mines… and it turned in to a tree. Later on, a group of rebels carrying the Doctor on a pole also find themselves turned in to a tree… with the Doctor's pole suspended between branches. It should be silly, and indeed, I've always thought of it as being so… but I rather enjoyed it here! The trees don't look all that convincing, and the moment when Tree-Luke swoops down a branch to save Peri from the same fate is a bit ludicrous, but I rather like the actual transformation effect! I think it's generally a result of simply enjoying the episode so much that it can do very little wrong in my eyes!

The Mark of the Rani is Pip and Jane Baker's first contribution to the programme, but they'll be back for a few more stories over the next few years. They've never been hailed as the greatest writers Doctor Who has ever had (indeed, I was hugely saddened, and more than a little offended, recently when Jane Baker passed away and there were some comments on my Facebook News Feed to the effect of 'good riddance, her episodes were rubbish'. Suffice to say, those people no longer show up on my newsfeed), but I have to say that I've really enjoyed this particular story. There are more than a few examples of their trademark thesaurus-needing dialogue on show, but I didn't find it distracting to the plot in the way that I'd expected to. That's another thing to keep an eye on, I think, over the next few stories from them. So as far as I'm concerned, they're very welcome to the programme with a story like this, and I'm actively looking forward to their next one (which I seem to recall enjoying more than any other part of the Trial season…!)

22 October 2014

DWO’s Spoiler-Free preview of episode 8.10: In the Forest of the Night:

 

Doctor Who has always featured character arcs. Go right back to the very beginning of the programme in 1963, and watch as the Doctor changes across his adventures with Ian and Barbara. Compare the man they find in the Junkyard at Totter’s Lane with the one that they’re lazing around with at the beginning of The Chase two years later, and you can track his journey along the way rather easily. They’re not always so prominent in the ‘classic’ era of the programme, but they’re there, from Jo, to Tegan, to Ace. Once you reach the 21st century period of the programme, the focus has been shifted much more to the characters, and every season is crammed with lovely character arcs, right from the start.

 

That said, it’s a real delight watching the arcs unfold across Season Eight this year. I’m not talking about the little hints and glimpses that we’re getting of ‘Missy’ and the ‘Promised Land’ scattered through the stories, I mean the story of our three regulars - the Doctor, Clara, and Danny. It’s been great watching their story unfold over the last ten weeks, and it’s rather brilliant that every story this year has managed to turn and evolve their relationships to each other very definitely, without ever making it feel forced, or hitting you over the head with the point. In The Forest of the Night continues this tradition, giving us perhaps a greater glimpse at Danny’s real character than ever before, and putting him under the spotlight in the same way that last week’s Flatline did for the Doctor.

 

A lot of the praise for how well all of this is working needs to be laid at the door of the three lead actors in this series - Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, and Samuel Anderson. It really is becoming increasingly difficult every week to find new ways of saying how brilliant the three of them are, and there’s not letting up in this episode. The only way to describe it is to say that we got chills at DWO when watching a scene of the Doctor and Clara together, because you simply know that you’re watching two masters at work. Simply stunning.

 

But what of the story itself? There’s been a lot of buzz around Frank Cottrell Boyce joining the programme with this story, especially after the seasons’ other new writer - Jamie Mathieson - has provided two very well received episodes for the run. Boyce doesn’t fail to deliver, giving us a story which manages to play on various fears, and do so while presenting us with logical explanations for them. The characters are all absolutely nailed, and the idea at the heart of the story - that the world wakes up one day to find the entire planet shrouded in a thick forest - is completely right for a Doctor Who tale.

 

Another new face joining the series this week is director Sheree Folkson, who comes in all guns blazing, and managing to make the forest look gorgeous in every shot. It’s amazing how just a few scatter objects that we can relate to as ‘every day’ - a traffic light here, one of Trafalgar Square’s lions there - can help to create the idea that we’re still very much in the heart of the city here, while also feeling remote and trapped. The use of light in this episode is especially nice - playing through the trees in every scene to create something really rather magical.

 

Five things to look out for:

 

1) “I can fight monsters, I can’t fight physics…”
2) All of this has happened before…
3) “A tree is a time machine”
4) Another London landmark gets destroyed
5) "You. Have you got a name, at all?"


[Sources: DWO, Will Brooks]

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