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Roderick Donald

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

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24 November 2020

Back in 2005, for many fans of a certain age, a long period of Doctor Who televisual drought had finally come to an end; the wilderness years were over.

Despite having so much to live up to, Christopher Eccleston's first series was a palpable hit, with Russell T. Davies having rooted the show with more story arcs, more emotion and more budget than we could have possibly dreamed of. 

There were a number of takeaway favourites from that first series; Rose and the Doctor's chemistry, the (previously mentioned) season-long story arc, "Are you my Mummy!" and good old Captain Jack Harkness, played so wonderfully by John Barrowman.

During the closing moments of Series One, poor Jack was left for dead, and it wasn't until Series Three's three-part finale that we would see him again in Doctor Who. But the minute he reappeared on that screen, you couldn't help but feel the excitement and love that this character brings to the Doctor Who universe. A big part of that is down to Barrowman's own love for the show and his character, and it effortlessly comes across on-screen.

Captain Jack would make one more cameo appearance in the Series Four finale (The End Of Time: Part Two) - and then nothing for a further eight series...

Whilst the show has evolved over the years and several Doctors have come and gone, Jack has always been at the back of our minds. Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat left us with a number of big questions and mysteries surrounding Jack, that even his own Torchwood series never got to the bottom of. What happened in those missing years? Did he really become the Face Of Boe? If so, how?

And such is the enigma of Jack; a character who has always left us wanting more. Peppered lightly, but so meaningfully in Doctor Who - a force for good who always has the Doctor's back. 

For us, Jack almost seems to be the embodiment of Doctor Who fandom; someone that is there to support the Doctor. Someone who is clearly thrilled to be in the Doctor's presence and who has been changed by the Doctor to make choices for the better. Like Jack, we all have the Doctor's back and to take the analogy to its conclusion, fandom will go on living for many years to come.

Earlier this year saw the long-awaited return of Jack in the Series 12 story Fugitive Of The Judoon. Jack had an important message for The Doctor, and left with the promise that he would see her again (although we didn't actually get to see them together in the episode). Having witnessed the joy at Jack's surprise return via fandom on Twitter, it was so clear just how much he was missed and just how much he means to fans. Jack is a touchstone to the show's return 15 years ago, and seeing him back rebuffs all those happy memories and emotions.

Last night we all got the news we were hoping for... Jack is back once more, and finally...FINALLY, he gets to meet our fantastic new Doctor. A Christmas special, no less, with Daleks and futuristic prisons and...well... at least an hour of two old friends thrown back together. 

How apt is that?! It's all of us - The Doctor, his friends, and no matter how much time goes by, we're all still here and ready for the next adventure.

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4 January 2019

2018 was an incredibly exciting year for Doctor Who; we got our first female 'Doctor' - something that would change the history of the show, and take it into a new, exciting direction. Having now seen the entirety of Series 11 and the New Year's Day Special ('Resolution'), we are thrilled with Jodie and her awesome TARDIS team. It's just such a shame we now have to wait a whole other year until the next series. :( - I guess, though, when you really think about it, it's actually not that much of an extended wait than we're used to. The Christmas special was the only thing that really broke up the wait between series, and what makes it feel longer is the fact that 2020 - a year which, to many of us, still feels like a futuristic SciFi movie setting - is one whole year away from us, at the time of writing.

Of course, 2018 also brought with it some other key Doctor Who moments; Doctor Who On Twitch was a particular revelation, and with it saw some fantastic memes and personalities that emerged as a result. In case you missed it, we got confirmation yesterday that another Twitch run will begin as of tomorrow!

There was also the release of some terrific Doctor Who merchandise; a new sonic, new toys, clothing - and the long-awaited release of Classic Who box-sets on Blu-ray.

As for the DWO site, we are now in our 22nd year (crazy, I know?!), and we have lots of exciting things planned in this (slightly quieter) year. We are planning a full site revamp, and the return of a few features that many of you will consider to be some old favourites. Our Forums continue to grow, with over 49,000+ members - again, we will be unveiling some design tweaks on there, as well as some new guests for our popular 'Ask & Answer' section.

On social media, DWO continues to amass a large Twitter following (@DrWhoOnline); we now have over 130,000+ followers, and we plan on some exciting new content and interactivity on the platform during 2019.

In a recent tweet, we asked you to tell us some of your favourite moments / memories & merchandise during 2018, and, as promised, here are some of your replies:

As always, thank you all for your continued support of Doctor Who Online! It's hard work - especially as I also juggle it with taking care of my young family, but reading your emails and tweets is a genuine highlight of my day.

I posted a blog entry last year about some health issues, which impacted some of the regular updates on the site, and whilst I'm still getting through these, I can confirm that things are much better, and shouldn't affect the regularity of updates going forward.

I'd like to wish you all a very Happy New Year and am very much looking forward to what 2019 has in store! 

Sebastian J. Brook - Site Editor
Doctor Who Online
January 2019

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21 August 2018

My Name is Barry Aldridge - I'm a Doctor Who fan, born and raised in Forest Hill, London. I also have autism. I am 35 years old and working part-time as a retail assistant (at the time of writing this). I moved out of London when I was 23, and lived in Brighton for 3 months, before moving to West Sussex, to a small town called Goring By Sea, where I live to this day.

I have been a Doctor Who fan since 1988. I can remember watching my first ever story when I was just 5 years old; Remembrance Of The Daleks. I recall the first episode cliffhanger, and my love for the Daleks began. The reason we watched was because my Mum didn’t want to watch Coronation Street (which was on at the same time), and, looking back, I'm so glad she made that decision! To me, the Daleks will always hold a special place, no matter what. It is their design by the late Raymond Cusick that was so iconic and memorable. I can see why people call them pepper pots, even though I never did call them pepper pots, myself.

I remember watching the rest of the season which included The Happiness Patrol which featured the Candyman, who freaked the hell out of me! I was glad he got dealt with by the end. Silver Nemesis was actually filmed near me in a town called Arundel. As for The Greatest Show In The Galaxy, I found that a bit weird as a five year old, but as an adult, I find it rather enjoyable now.

The next season of the show featured Battlefield, the confusing Ghost Light and two true favourites; The Curse Of Fenric and Survival. By the end of 1989 I thought it was coming back and then there was nothing... My Mum had bought VHS Tapes of the show from both the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker years, and I loved all the stories. Nowadays, I have every single story - organised from outstanding to poor stories (in my view) - but hey, that's just my opinion!

I really loved the theme music, which I found mysterious, scary and generally wonderful to listen to - especially with McCoy’s era, which made feel like I was going into outer space for a big adventure.

Around 1990 there was a weekend where they showed, for the first time in a long time, the black and white episodes - and I loved them! I will admit that I found the first Dalek story a bit long - particularly the bits without the Daleks, which were a bit boring, but watching it years later, I love it. It was during that weekend that I truly fell in love with my favourite Doctor of all time; Patrick Troughton.

In 1993 I watched all the colour stories on UK Gold, which was a real gem. I would start watching at 7am, as some of the earlier Pertwee stories were longer as they were 7-parters.

In 1998, I have to admit that I fell out of love with Doctor Who for a bit, as GCSEs and other things in my life took over, but in 2005 I once again had to thank my Mum as she had watched the new series and told me to "give it a chance". I did, and at that moment, I was back in love with the show. I particularly loved Episode 6, Dalek, by Robert Shearman who actually shares the same birthday as me and Peter Purves. That’s something that being autistic can do; allowing me to build knowledge and remember even the smallest of facts that maybe others would forget.

I first got my diagnosis for autism when I was 3 years old, which, back then was more like an underground movement (like going to a rave club). All good in the hood in my book. I finally found out that I had it, probably around the age of 7 onwards, when I moved from a special school to a mainstream primary school.

Autism has really good and bad points to it. Normally people start with the good then go for the bad, but I'm going to start from the other way around.

When you talk about the show and there are sometimes disagreements, other people wouldn’t give me the time to explain my side and think I am very slow on getting through. It can normally be tricky, but luckily there are fans who are understanding. I can feel quite nervous at conventions, which can be really tricky as noise and lighting can be distracting and trigger a meltdown, which some people find really hard to understand. People wonder why I am having a meltdown and think I am mentally ill and should be locked up. I can also find the number of people at the conventions tough to deal with. I know some people who have had breakdowns owing to the crowds. It happened to me once, but I made sure I quickly got somewhere quiet to relax myself.

I would get anxious about time slots on whether it is a photo shoot or meeting one of the stars of the show. It was / is really important to me to make sure I get everything right. I know some people will see it as a selfish attitude but I call it being prepared and making sure I am on time. Autistic people I know, like to keep up with time and if they are late it can cause a meltdown.

One other downside is that I may not be able to understand certain forms of humour - if explained, then I would be alright, but a few fans can have trouble understanding that.

Now onto the good side of being autistic! You can build a real encyclopaedic knowledge of the show - for example, I know which stories were directed by Barry Letts, or how many episodes Tom Baker did (not stories but individual episodes to every single story he did). I can recall, at a moments notice, who did the music on each show and can even pick out which instruments were used at different times. I can even spot a reference to a certain time in another episode. There are a lot of autistic Doctor Who fans too who are the same and you can have a really good chat - especially talking about good and bad episodes of the show.

Every time I have met someone who has worked on the show, they have always been incredibly welcoming. Conventions or museums like the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff and other places in Brighton and London were brilliant and very calming atmospheres - especially the Cardiff place which is no longer there, sadly. I think that conventions have improved over the years where there is more understanding for everyone, whatever condition you may have, and I think that is a wonderful thing. There is always going to be a negative that could overshadow the event but I never think of it for long and move on and focus on the positives.

Organising merchandise from the show is really important to me; like putting magazines, books, CDs and DVDs in order - that helps me to be calm! When I was younger, I would make sure to put the stories whether DVD or Blu-Ray, in order, so then I know which one to get down to watch. If it was messed around I would have a bit of meltdown.

Being a fan of the Daleks, I would love to collect anything Dalek related - it was like a mission, and autistic people love missions - or at least the ones I know, do - lol.

Every autistic person is different; not every autistic Doctor Who fan has the same favourites - we are different like everyone else, but the one thing we all have in common - autism or no autism - is our love and passion for the show. Whether we agree or disagree on certain doctors, stories, writers and so on, the one thing we can all agree upon is that we love Doctor Who.

Barry

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14 August 2018

The Legacy Of Karn

This month Panini have published a superb Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition that deals with the many-faceted phenomena of Doctor Who fandom - covering fanzines, conventions, websites, and numerous other shining little corners of this uniquely strange and delightful world that we inhabit. Oddly, however, they seem to have neglected to mention the fan group that I’ve been involved with for the past decade or so - outrageous! So, I’ll just have to tell you all about it here… Think of this column as an addendum - for you to print out and slip into the magazine proper, to paper over this glaring omission… 

 

The Sisterhood of Karn is a London-based society for LGBT Doctor Who fans. I’ve been helping to run the group for a few years now, but it will be celebrating its 25th anniversary next year. Founder member Ian D P recalls the origins of the Sisterhood:

 

“The Sisterhood of Karn was formed in February 1994, a particularly dark time for Doctor Who. The TV movie hadn't yet been announced and over four years had passed since the final episode of the original twenty-six year run of the series. 

 

The group was originally called 'Strictly no Anoraks’, but as this might have put off a significant proportion of the potential membership, the name 'Sisterhood of Karn' was chosen at the first meeting. In the 1976 episode ‘The Brain of Morbius', the mysterious coven known as the Sisterhood of Karn were entrusted to keep alive the flame of eternal youth. The new group also kept alive the flame of Doctor Who and, in a sense anyone who continues to follow Doctor Who into their adult life is keeping alive their own youthful sense of wonder and imagination.

  

The Sisterhood met in the upstairs bar at The Kings Arms, at the time home to many special interest groups including the self explanatory 'Beards meet Beards' and 'Blue Haze'  - a group for cigar and pipe smokers. I once made the mistake of entering the upstairs room whilst 'Blue Haze' were in full session and the smoke was so thick that you couldn't see the far corners of the room. If this group still exists today they must have difficulty in finding a suitable venue. (In contrast, Beards meet Beards would be inundated with members.)

 

The group moved from the Kings Arms in Poland Street to Central Station in Kings Cross when the Kings Arms decided to install a pool table in their upstairs room (one of us had to go) but returned to the Kings Arms just as soon as the pool table was removed. The group survived both the return of Doctor Who to the television screens and the formation of a short lived breakaway group. A great many firm friendships (and one or two lasting enmities) have been formed over the last twenty five years and The Sisterhood of Karn is still going strong and meeting once a month in that upstairs bar in Poland Street.”

 

I can’t remember how I initially became aware of the Sisterhood - presumably I had carried out an internet search for ‘Gay Doctor Who’… but from the moment I first ascended the narrow stairs up to the first floor room of the Kings Arms in Soho - London’s foremost ‘bear bar’ - I was immediately made to feel welcome.


Aside from a couple of Panopticon conventions as a young teen, this was my first proper interaction with other fans - and also one of my first social events with other gay men since moving to the capital. (While all are welcome, and we’re always striving to improve diversity, the vast majority of our membership is made up of cis gay men…) This double-barrelled kinship made for an exceptionally warm and light-hearted atmosphere, and before I knew it I had become a regular, quickly making firm friends - not to mention a few more ‘involved’ dalliances - and found myself volunteering to run the admin side of things - which is basically just listing the monthly meetings on Facebook, attending to the social media, and organising the occasional special event. People jest about me being the group’s ‘Maren’, but the truth of the matter is that a collective like ours has no need for something as appallingly hierarchical as a ‘leader’!

 

One of my first memories of Karn is being incredibly hungover during an outing to Chislehurst Caves - one of the locations used for the planet Solos in Jon Pertwee story ‘The Mutants’ - that I’d organised because an actor that I was appearing with in a play at the time had a day job giving guided tours there. And I mean *really* hungover - irresponsibly so, and on the verge of blacking out. Not an ideal condition for traipsing through miles of dark, oppressive, labyrinthine underground caverns infested with evil looking massive spiders… Fascinating as the history of the complex was, the urge to flee was overwhelming. And to cap it all - when we finally emerged into the sunlight at the adventure’s end, our guide realised that he’d completely forgotten to show us the portion of the caves where Doctor Who was filmed - so the delegation from Karn never actually made it to Solos after all…!

 

As well as the more unusual events - including intimate Q&A sessions with both Louise Jameson and Matthew Waterhouse - some of the most memorable moments of Karn, for me, have been at the regular monthly meet-ups. Whether we’ve been happily plastering the free gay bar-magazines with stickers of Toclafane, making Dalek figures pop-up on the security cameras, or just nattering over too much wine, that warm and joyful room above The King’s Arms in Soho has always been such a happy and hearty place. I recall a particularly lively evening that saw one one of our more gym-oriented members bench-pushing a popular Big Finish author… Never, in all my time involved with the group, have I seen a hint of the egos or rivalries that one hears stories of other fan gatherings being plagued by. Maybe we’ve just been lucky - maybe we’ve just been too silly! But I like to think that there’s something rather special about our little gathering of like-minded folk, who find kinship with each other, month after month, in a bustling bar, slap bang in the absolute centre of London’s tireless and trendy LGBT heartland - mainly to talk about Dodo. 

 

At the time of writing we’re gearing up for our latest special event - ‘An Evening with Lisa Bowerman’ - a special appearance from the actress who plays Bernice Summerfield for Big Finish, and who also appeared as Karra the Cheetah Person in the final Sylvester McCoy story, ‘Survival’. So if you’d like join us on the evening of August 17th, tickets are still available (see link below), or feel free to turn up at one of our regular monthly meetings - on the third Thursday of each month - for a drink and a chat. We’re very informal and newcomers are always welcome. Sacred fire, sacred flame. 

 

Tickets for ‘An Evening with Lisa Bowerman’ can be purchased here: www.eventbrite.com/e/an-evening-with-lisa-bowerman-tickets-47678420439

 

Follow the Sisterhood of Karn on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SisterhoodofKarn/

 

And on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sisterhood_karn

 

Richard Unwin

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15 July 2018

The Box-Set Of Delights

With the new series still several months away, there seems to be more and more focus on classic Doctor Who as we eagerly await the new Doctor making her grand entrance in October. The Twitch marathon continues apace, 20th century companions Wendy Padbury, Carol Ann Ford, and Sophie Aldred grace the front cover of this month’s Doctor Who Magazine, and we’ve recently seen the (slightly delayed) release of the shiny new Season 12 Blu-ray box-set. (Or the ‘Tom Baker Season 1 box-set’ if you’re in America…) 

 

I confess to being slightly nonplussed when the announcement was first made that seasons of the classic show were going to be re-released as box-set collections. I mean, lovely as they are - how many times can we possibly be expected re-buy these old episodes…? But then the sheer amount of love and care that was being put into making this an ‘ultimate’ edition quickly became apparent - this was no rush-job cash-in. Seduced by the strikingly beautiful box artwork by Lee Binding, as well as a glorious gallimaufry of brand new extra features - it took me, ooh, minutes, before I caved in and pre-ordered. And now that I’m sitting here with this sexy and sturdy box of complete joy in my hands, it’s got me thinking about all the different ways in which we’ve welcomed these old friends into our homes over the years… Allow me to take you by the plunger and lead you on a personal voyage through thirty years of house-calls from the Doctor… 

 

Live Transmissions

 

I became a fan at the age of eight, in 1988, halfway through Remembrance Of The Daleks - so, although I didn’t know it at the time, opportunities to watch new episodes as they went out live were shortly to be subjected to something of a hiatus… We did have a video recorder by this point, but no one knew how to work the timer - someone had to be there to press ‘record’ as each episode went out, or it was lost to the time vortex forever. At that time Doctor Who was transmitted on a Wednesday evening, which clashed with the local cub scout pack meetings that I attended, so the sacred duty of capturing each week’s instalment was entrusted to my parents. Something went wrong with the taping of Part Three of The Happiness Patrol, however - they somehow managed to record the wrong channel, and I was inconsolable to find that all I had was a tape of northern people going about their everyday lives. I had to wait NINE years to see it - when the commercial VHS release finally came out in 1997. Naturally, this incident prompted me to quit the cub scouts for good. To this day I can’t make a fire or tie a knot, but I did manage to see all of Silver Nemesis, which, I’m sure you’ll agree, makes me the winner in this story. 

 

VHS Tapes

 

I’d already begun to collect the VHS releases by the time the TV show came to an abrupt end in 1989. Those early tapes, such as Pyramids Of Mars, Day Of The Daleks, and The Talons Of Weng-Chiang, were so indelibly impressed upon my young mind that I can still recite them word for word. And watching the fuzzy, unrestored, VHS quality was like looking through a time-window to a thousand years ago - I felt like a noble historian, carefully collecting and preserving these impossibly old artefacts - most of which were in reality not much older than myself. Our family home was burgled once, when I was about eleven, and I was utterly distraught to see that my collection had gone. Never mind the priceless heirlooms and family silver - I insisted upon giving the police a detailed description of each and every Doctor Who video that I owned. (It later turned out that I’d actually just not left them where I thought I had, and they hadn’t been stolen at all. Some burglars have no taste.) 

 

UK Gold

 

As with many technological innovations - satellite television was something that I only became interested in when it offered an opportunity to see more Doctor Who. My parents surprised me with a satellite dish one Christmas, when I was thirteen. This was too good to be true - they were showing my favourite show on UK Gold EVERY DAY! And the truly dedicated fan could get up at some ungodly hour on a Sunday morning and catch an omnibus of a complete story - every week! The first story I caught on this space-age medium was The Ark - I loved it so much. The following September, however, I was packed off to boarding school - where there were definitely no satellite dishes, and putting up a poster of a Sea Devil in one’s dorm room was, in retrospect, not the best way to make friends and influence people. So they were short lived, those heady satellite days, but they were UK Golden. 

 

DVD

 

I was in my first year of drama school by the time Doctor Who started to be released on DVD. Again - it was this development that prompted me to invest in the technology required to play the shiny futuristic discs. My first acquisition was The Robots Of Death. The picture was so sharp and clear! And there were extra features and menu screens - we truly were living in the promised times! (Admittedly, the main extra feature on that first disc was a copy of the studio floor plans - but I remember thinking at the time that they were a valuable and fascinating resource. I have never looked at them since.) The DVD range went on to spoil us with vast arrays of bonus content and VidFIRE restorations. For years it felt like getting a monthly video magazine, packed with making-of features and interviews - and the occasional documentary on black pudding. Truly, we thought - this is the definitive collection… 

 

Back to the present day…

 

Now, of course, there are more ways than ever to pipe Doctor Who into our homes, with the likes of Twitch marathons and iPlayer streaming. And the aforementioned blu-ray box-set, which surely is the ‘ultimate’ collection of these stories that we’ve carried with us throughout our lives. There’s a special feature devoted to a compilation of studio clocks. And half an hour of silent footage of the Season twelve cast chain-smoking. (As well as my absolute favourite extra bit - Janet Fielding, Louise Jameson, and Sarah Sutton doing a ‘Gogglebox’ style viewing of episodes that they weren’t in - I could happily watch this trio chewing the fat for hours, on any topic at all. Lots more of this please, blu-ray elves.) So, finally, we can be sure that we’re buying these episodes for the last time, can’t we…?

 

Yeah, right. See you in 2028 for the 3D brain-implant of Spearhead from Space - featuring an artificially intelligent and fully-restored Terrance Dicks. I can’t wait. 

 

Richard Unwin

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5 June 2018

The Day Of The Zarbi Riots

One of the biggest stories from this past week has, rather surprisingly, been original companions Ian and Barbara making it back to London in 1965. Contrary to Mr Chesterton’s claim in An Unearthly Child, it seems that time does indeed go ‘round and round in circles’… 

 

When the news broke a few weeks ago that Doctor Who was coming to ‘Twitch’, I confess to having no real idea what that meant - but as it happens, it’s turned out to mean something rather marvellous. Twitch is an online service for watching and streaming digital broadcasts which has acquired the rights to show almost all of the original run of Doctor Who. (Missing episodes and, sadly, several Dalek adventures are excluded - the latter on ‘rights’ grounds apparently.) It’s streamed in batches of three or four stories a day, Monday to Friday, with the whole batch on a loop that gets repeated twice. They started last week with An Unearthly Child and are working their way right through the classic series. What  makes this different from other repeats, however, is the inclusion of a chat box that allows viewers to comment on the episodes in real time - suddenly watching these beloved old treasures has become a worldwide communal experience. And judging from the rapidly streaming chat, the audience includes thousands of young people, many of whom have never experienced classic Doctor Who before - and they’re LOVING it. 

 

The comments whizz by at such a frenetic rate that it’s impossible to read every single thing that’s being said, but if you stare at the chat box for long enough, and relax your mind, it’s possible to achieve a zen-like state of higher consciousness that allows one to perceive the mood and general opinion without focussing in on each individual statement. It feels rather like being one of the infospike journalists from The Long Game - a massive download of information that is processed and packaged subconsciously by the human brain to become comprehensible content. Unlike many other social-media platforms, there’s no facility to ‘like’ or ‘favourite’ anyone’s contributions, so there’s no dopamine reward for outstanding efforts - people are simply joining in the chorus of commentary for the sheer joy of it. The Cave of Skulls, for example, provokes gems such as: “Za is a poser”, “Praise Orb”, and “LISTEN TO THE WOMAN”. The first glimpse of the cat in Planet Of Giants results in a bewildering blizzard of feline emojis and countless cries of “KITTY!”. 

 

What’s really fascinating is witnessing the formation of patterns that emerge from the maelstrom as these new viewers seize upon and celebrate certain moments and lines of dialogue, happily weaving memes from fragments of the past - ones that we’ve always been aware of, but have perhaps never celebrated to this degree. At the time of writing, Ian Chesterton’s line from The Chase about he and Barbara having made it back to London in the year 1965 has become an overnight internet sensation. This is mainly due to the clip in question being featured in a trailer for the Hartnell era that’s currently playing (twice) between each episode - along with the First Doctor’s “Believe me - I know!” from The Aztecs, which has been similarly seized upon. (In a pleasing piece of synchronicity, Russell T Davies’ currently airing BBC1 drama about Jeremy Thorpe - A Very English Scandal - happened to open with a massive caption reading ‘London 1965’. Always got his finger on the pulse that one…!) 

 

A truly heartwarming aspect of the week has been the degree to which this hyperactive hivemind has embraced the characters of Ian and Barbara. (The former now often referred to as ‘EEYAN’ due to the pronunciation of his name by Ixta in The Aztecs…) It’s been more than half a century since our intrepid schoolteachers first followed their unearthly child home through the London smog, and a whole new audience has fallen completely in love with them. There’s been fan-art, and memes, and a genuine connection - proving indisputably the brilliance of those wonderful performances, still shining through from all those years ago. (Though the adoration of Barbara did experience a brief wobble when she shoots Sandy the sandbeast in The Rescue… “She’s a MURDERER!”) There’s apparently even been ‘shipping’, whatever that is - probably something to do with the Mary Celeste scenes in The Chase

 

Then, on the forth day of the schedule, something went terribly wrong at Twitch HQ - the fluid links burnt out, the fault locator was on the fritz, and a time loop was established. Viewers tuning in for the scheduled showing of The Web Planet were instead confronted with a repeat performance of An Unearthly Child. Frustrations were vented in the comments: “Wrong Episode!”, “Wrong Episode!”, “WRONG EPISODE!!!”. After about fifteen minutes of protest, the episode was was eventually changed… to Planet Of Giants. They then proceeded to show the entirety of that story, and then The Dalek Invasion Of Earth - repeating the previous day’s playlist while an increasingly disgruntled audience continued to demand the promised trip to Vortis. The outrage was mostly good natured and healthily humorous, but still overwhelming. Variations on “We want Zarbi!”, “Justice for Vortis!”, and “ZARBI RIOT!” were repeated ad infinitum. This was one of the strangest, most surreal, and unexpected Doctor Who moments of the year so far. Thousands of young people on the internet, in 2018, threatening to riot if they weren’t shown The Web Planet immediately. All quite tongue-in-cheek, obviously - no one was actually going to take to the streets and start smashing the place up in the name of insect movement movement by Roslyn De Winter, but apparently The Web Planet was trending on Twitter. In 2018. Extraordinary. 

 

Eventually the time-track was corrected, and the clamouring masses got their fix of vaseline-smeared sci-fi action. Whether it was quite what they were expecting is another matter: “BLEEP BLOOP. I AM AN ANT!”… But the Day of the Zarbi Riots made one thing very clear - that these dusty old episodes are more than being enjoyed by their shiny new audience - they are being cherished.

 

Younger fans may well be getting rather fed up by now with the constant and sometimes rather patronising commentary from older enthusiasts on their viewing habits, attitudes, and Time Teams. Sorry about that. But honestly - seeing you take such delight from this material - that many of us had never imagined would once again be so celebrated - is actually rather moving and beautiful. We love that you love what we love, and can’t wait to see what mega-memes you pluck next from the Doctor’s adventures as the Twitch marathon progresses. We hope you enjoy it as much as we're enjoying your reactions! 

 

Richard Unwin

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7 May 2018

Terror Of The Time Team!

In the absence of any new news from Cardiff, the big talking point this past week has been the reveal of Doctor Who Magazine's all-new Time Team lineup. Traditionally, the Time Team - a feature launched in 1999 - has consisted of a group of four fans working their way through the entirety of Doctor Who, in chronological order, giving commentary, opinions, and observations as they go - usually accompanied by sublime illustration by Adrian Salmon. Now, however, it’s all-change, and a brand new group of twelve bold adventurers, who’ll be ruminating on a selection box of stories each month, was revealed in Issue 525 on Thursday the 3rd of May.

This may not sound like a big deal to the casual observer, but such was the interest in this unveiling that the phrase ‘Time Team’ was trending on Twitter - it appeared that everyone had something to say about this shiny new team. The responses could be broadly sorted into three main categories - celebration, apoplectic fury, and people who were confused that the news wasn’t to do with Tony Robinson and archeology.  

 

Most of the complaints seemed to stem from the fact that none of the new team are over the age of twenty-six, and that some of them are *gasp* only familiar with the post-2005 modern series of Doctor Who. Some people clearly felt that the magazine was betraying its loyal older readership by ‘dumbing down’ and presenting a selection of young ’n’ trendy social media types who wouldn’t know a Garm from a Gastropod. The sense of entitlement - the outrage that these whippersnappers could be permitted to pass comment on OUR holy texts - was fascinating to witness. And, at times, a little disturbing. 

 

There were also complaints from some quarters about the fresh team being diverse in race and gender - presumably from the same sorts of people who refuse point-blank to watch a female Doctor, get their knickers in a twist about racially diverse actors appearing in historical adventures, and think that accusing someone of being concerned with social justice is somehow an insult… You know the type - those who are convinced that even the vaguest mention of anyone who’s not a straight white cisgendered male is some sort of ‘box-ticking’ PC conspiracy. We shan’t concern ourselves with this monstrous minority any further - let’s just leave them screaming impotently into the void.

 

I have to confess to some brief, initial agreement with those who voiced concerns. And, as someone who was born in the year of City of Death, I’m naturally confused by, suspicious of, and a little bit scared by YouTubers and social media ‘influencers’…  The few that I’ve been exposed to in the past seemed to share identikit ‘upbeat’ personalities and unnatural uniform beauty, weaponised by ruthless commercial acumen. ‘YouTuber hair’ is definitely a thing. I quickly realised, of course, that this distrust is merely a product of my own advancing years and a failure on my part to embrace and comprehend new forms of expression. (But I still reckon that someone ought to write a Doctor Who episode where YouTubers turn out to be Autons - have that for free if you’re reading this Chris…) 

 

However, having done some light research on the debuting dozen, I’m pleased to report that any foolish fears have been allayed. They appear to be a delightful bunch of bright young things, many of whom have more than demonstrated phenomenal creative talents in various other projects and arenas. And of COURSE they are - they were selected and put together by Benjamin Cook, a shining stalwart of our beloved periodical since he was but a tadpole himself, and proof, if it were needed, that it’s perfectly possible to be simultaneously a YouTube sensation AND wield expertise on the life-cycle of a Vervoid. Plus I’m already familiar with, and a fan of, the work of two of our intrepid archeologists - the fabulous Fan Show presenter Christel Dee, and the smouldering Big Finish performer Jacob Dudman. We’re in safe hands. (If you’re reading this Jacob - I love you.) 

 

Yes - they could have plumped for greater variance in age, but isn’t it actually rather fun and exciting that they haven’t…? We’ve all heard a hundred opinions on The Claws of Axos from the old guard who can recite the production codes backwards. The fact that some of this new gang of bright-eyed beauties have never even seen a single episode of ‘classic’ Who means that we’re going to get real fresh and untainted responses to the material. In a way, this modern approach is more akin to the phenomenally successful ‘Class 4G’ articles put together by Gary Gillatt in the nineties, than the classic Time Team's who were often clearly just faking that it was their first time. I know it seems unthinkable to some that Doctor Who fans could possibly be trendy young people who don’t own even a single anorak, but to me it’s thrilling and heartwarming to see the sacred flame being passed on to the next generation of space oddities. I’d encourage anyone who’s worried by this development to do their best to put aside their concerns, embrace the future, and enjoy the ride. Sure, these youngsters may spout the occasional odd opinion - such as classic show cliffhangers being ‘cheap tricks’, or describing the Brigadier as a ‘babe’ - but surely we’ve all held odd opinions at some time or another…? (I took me until my thirties to truly appreciate the utter glory that is Time And The Rani. “Leave the girl, it’s the man I want!”) Different perspectives are what makes this interesting.

 

Isn’t it extraordinary that the lineup change of a humble magazine feature has sparked such passionate discourse…? But, ultimately, the only way is forward. Doctor Who is for everyone - everyone who ever caught a glimpse of the magic blue box and had it imprinted forever on their hearts. To jealously guard our fantastical treasures and deem others who are perhaps less well-versed in the scripture as somehow ‘unworthy’ of studying them is the antithesis of everything that blue box represents. If the magazine, and the show, are to survive for future generations to enjoy, we literally HAVE to welcome fresher faces to the party - none of us are immortal! I wish the Time Team of 2018 the very best on their new adventure. Enjoy! 

 

However, I’m FURIOUS about the new article not being accompanied by an Adrian Salmon illustration. Doctor Who Magazine is dead to me!
 

Richard Unwin

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17 April 2018

Hello! Welcome to this new column! ‘What’s it about?’ I hear you cry. Good question. I’m not entirely sure of the answer yet - let’s just see what happens. 

My initial thought was that this would be a sort of ‘Doctor Who Diary’ - a monthly round-up of things that have been happening in the Whoniverse, peppered with gossip and chit-chat and gags. A bit like the ‘3AM Girls’, but with more Terileptils. With this in mind, on Friday the 13th of April I dutifully headed off to the Target Books signing at the London Forbidden Planet Megastore on Shaftesbury Avenue. Due to attend were all five authors of the new adaptations, including Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat - perhaps I could get some juicy quotes from them! Maybe Russell could be persuaded to finally spill the beans on Christopher Eccleston, or Steven could explain the actual literal silence at the end of Vampires of Venice…? That sort of inside scoop could really get this fledgling feature off to a flying start! 

Quick bit of background: I have been to a few organised fan events in the past, but not many. I attended Panopticon 93 - the big 30th anniversary convention - as a precocious fourteen year old. And then, twenty years later, I trotted along to the enormous, slick, BBC organised 50th Anniversary celebration at London’s ExCel Exhibition Centre. (Where fans were herded about in giant hangers like Ood being prepared for shipping - a lot of the experience was quite miserable.) And, most recently, for the past couple of years I’ve enjoyed the annual Utopia weekends held at Eynsham Hall in Oxfordshire, relaxed affairs which are much more up my alley. Mostly a lot of drunk gay men in a big old country house fawning over Wendy Padbury and other ‘actresses of a certain age’. (I say that with the greatest of affection, and count myself among the fawners.) Throw in the odd book signing here and there, (as well as pub meets for LGBT Doctor Who fans with The Sisterhood of Karn in Soho - more on them another time…) and that’s about the sum total of my fan event experience. So I had a reasonable idea of what to expect from the Target event, but by no means consider myself an expert on such matters. 

I arrived at Forbidden Planet a good hour before the scheduled start time, and was surprised to be confronted by a snaking queue already winding its way right around the block - there were *hundreds* of people there, far more than I had anticipated. Perhaps you were one of them and saw me - looking slightly panicked as I walked along the line to join the back of the queue, trying desperately to appear terribly cool and above it all.

I’ve always had a slightly complicated relationship with my own fandom. I consider myself to be a hardcore aficionado - I own Wartime on DVD - but there’s still sometimes a slight sense of shame that can nip at my heels from time to time. Here I was, suddenly exposed and out on the street, clutching my carrier bag full of books ready to be signed. Within the first few minutes several bemused onlookers asked what was going on - the look on their faces when I explained that the queue was to meet some Doctor Who writers only helped to fuel my shame demons… Which I *know* is ridiculous - I *know* that being a fan is wonderful and magical and enriching - I think it’s just the baggage of preconceived ideas of others that sometimes weighs heavy on me. Plus there was the fact that at that precise moment I was surrounded by the worst thing in the universe - other fans. 

Fans in front of me, fans behind me - nothing but fans. I didn’t want to interact, I didn’t want them to talk to me - I steeled myself for however many hours it was going to take of standing in complete silence. I absolutely didn’t want to engage with the sort of people who would subject themselves to standing in the cold, for hours, all for the sake of a sci-fi show. So instead I popped in my headphones and played the latest Fifth Doctor adventure from Big Finish

Eventually, the people in front of me, two men and a girl, did strike up a conversation, and, reluctantly, I got drawn in. And then, of course, we talked for *hours*. Talking and talking and more wonderful talking. It is an extraordinary and liberating thing to converse with people who share the same specialised knowledge as oneself. (‘Yes, the spine numbering on the Titan graphic novels IS quite irritating…’ ) We learnt about each other’s lives and loves and favourite Virgin Missing Adventures. And it was glorious. There was I, intent on being all stand-offish and judgemental, and here were these wonderful, funny, generous people - kind and wise enough to ignore my pretentions and include me in a happy little makeshift group that smiled and laughed and queued in the cold.

When we reached the head of the line - two and a half hours later - we insisted to the Forbidden Planet gatekeepers that we should go in to the signing as a foursome, and refused to be separated. It is clear to me, and probably to you, that I had been projecting my own fears and insecurities about my own fandom onto others, and that, dear reader, is a very silly thing to do. What I had so foolishly feared wasn’t other fans at all - it was simply my own reflection. Fortunately, on this occasion the Mara was defeated, and everyone skipped off into the sunset for space buns and tea. 

I can’t say that the shame demons will never haunt me again, but this happy and enlightening experience has equipped me to better fight them off if they do. (Oh - also there was a bit where some people signed some books for us, but that was over very quickly, and I was too busy giggling with my new friends to ask them for any quotes or gossip. Sorry.)

Richard Unwin

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27 March 2018

Some of you may have noticed over the past couple of years that our site updates haven't been as regular as they used to be, and I feel that now is a good time to fill you in on why that has been.

I've run DWO for the best part of 22 years, and, all being well, I hope to do so for a good time to come, but for the past couple of years the regular updates have been somewhat of a struggle due to some ongoing issues with my health.

It all started when I was exhibiting at the 2015 London Film And Comic Con (which was a fantastic event, by the way). We had the DWO space set up, and got to meet so many of our lovely visitors and twitter followers - I had my wife on hand to help out, and things were going very well indeed. On the morning of the Sunday show, we arrived and I wasn't feeling great; for some reason I was feeling a bit panicked. I literally could't think of anything that was panicking me, nor could I comprehend why I was feeling this way. I started to become very aware of everything, and it felt like the space around me was closing in a bit. The lights started to feel a bit more intense and I began to feel my heart racing - like, super fast! I was naturally feeling quite anxious, and decided to make my way to the medial booth on the upper floor. As I got to the staircase, every step felt laboured, and I was starting to feel a little light-headed. I finally got to the office and the very helpful woman asked me to sit in a chair as she took my blood pressure and other stats.

My heart rate was around 170bpm (beats per minute), and I was just sat in the chair. She talked to me to calm me down, and it eventually slowed to around 120bpm. By this point, my hands were physically shaking, due to the adrenaline that was rushing through me. The woman asked me some questions; "Have you ever had a heart issue?", "Have you ever been diagnosed with a heart attack?, "Do you suffer from anxiety?". I replied "No" to all three questions, and sipped on some cold water, which helped to relax me further.  She then suggested that I go to the hospital to get some precautionary blood tests to rule out anything sinister.

My wife and I stayed for an hour whilst I contemplated whether to go right away or not, before deciding that we would in fact leave. I got to our local hospital, and they ran some tests, and everything checked out normal. On paper I was fit and healthy, and nothing seemed to be wrong. In my head, however, I was confused and unsatisfied with the fact that there was no diagnosis for what had happened to me earlier that day. This was something that has never happened to me before.

A few weeks passed by, and I was at home with my wife and kids, and we were having our dinner, when, again, out of nowhere, my heart was racing once more - this time around 180bpm. I made my way to the hospital, where they did some tests again, and could see the high heart rate. Again, I was asked if I suffered from anxiety, to which I responded "No", but I felt like this was a word that kept being thrown at me - like it was something I was meant to accept. They let me go and asked me to get an appointment with my GP to set up a referral to a cardiologist.

A day or so later, I met with my GP and we set up the appointment, which was for a few weeks from that date. During that time, I had several more incidents of my heart racing - a couple of the times I was at home on my own, and for the first time ever, I called an Ambulance. I was finding my breathing was somewhat laboured, and was trying to breathe through the fast heart rate (which, can make you feel quite breathless, alone), and, again, they checked me over and couldn't find a cause.

I eventually got my appointment with the Cardiologist, who did a number of tests; ECGs, a running test and more in-depth blood tests, but all of them seemed to draw a blank. He suggested I go on some beta blockers to manage the issue, and I went onto a medication called 'Propanolol'. At first it seemed to work, as the events were happening less frequently, but days later, I started to notice a small red patch on my left arm. It didn't occur to me that it could be related to the medication as it was happening at such a slow rate, but over the next 9 months, the red patches covered the whole of my body. I went to the Doctors, who, after numerous tests, put it down to a condition called Psoriasis. 

For 9 months I was dealing with the red patches, and I was incredibly self conscious to go out in public and be seen; my face was the only place I wasn't really getting them, but you could see them on my neck, which forced me to wear long-sleeve shirts and jumpers during a particularly hot summer. It was at this point, that I started to realise the affect this was having on my mental state. I was given a special lotion which was paraffin based (the same stuff you use to light a fire, although on a much, much lower scale). It helped a little to reduce the visibility, but was not recommended over long periods of time. 

Having been feeling rather low and unhappy about the situation for some time, I asked my GP about setting me up with a Dermatologist, and a few weeks later, she confirmed that this was indeed Psoriasis and that, unfortunately, it would be something I would have to deal with throughout my life, although there were treatments to help lessen the red marks. 
I was given bath liquids, whole body lotions and the most foul-smelling cold tar lotion, which I had to put on twice daily. 

A few days later I had another of my heart issues and was given an alternative beta blocker to try. I came off the Propanolol and went onto something called Verapamil. The first 24 hours seemed fine, and then in the evening I had another fast heart rate, with what I now know to be a panic attack. It was single-handedly the most terrifying experience I've had to date... I went to the hospital who actually kept me overnight this time, and was given another new beta blocker to try called 'Bisoprolol'. This one seemed to work perfectly!

Days and weeks passed without any large events, and I was starting to feel a bit better. The red marks on my skin also appeared to be fading, and I finally felt that things were moving in a positive direction. Something was niggling away at the back of my mind though, and it was the fact that the heart situation was still undiagnosed. By this point, I started to feel like I was being pigeon-holed in the 'anxiety' box. There was no doubt that I was anxious, but I felt that it was a result of the process to this point (now going on 16 months), and the fact I still didn't know what was causing it.

By now it was March of 2017, and the red marks were almost gone. I had a follow-up appointment in a few days with the Dermatologist, and was hoping for her to tell me that this was now managed. My wife was looking online and found that a side effect of the original beta blocker I was on was "red marks on the skin". We started doing our maths and worked out that it was almost to the week that I went onto the Propanolol (my original beta blocker), that I started to get the red marks. My Dermatology appointment came around and I brought it up to the specialist. She looked at my skin, and how vastly improved it was, and confirmed that this was now likely an interaction due to my body being intolerant to the Propanolol. I came out from the appointment relieved and angry; relieved that this wasn't something I'd have to constantly battle throughout my life, but angry that this wasn't picked up - or even suggested, by my GP.

Days, weeks and months went by, and by now we were coming to the Summer 2017. My skin had completely cleared up, I was getting confidence to go out more, and my heart rate was managed by the bisoprolol, to the point that I started to reduce my dosage to the point I didn't need to take it anymore. I did still get the faster heart rate, but I managed it by breathing through it or trying to focusing on something else. I had another appointment with my Cardiologist where I expressed my happiness at the fact the incidents had reduced, but my frustration at still not knowing why or how it started in the first place. The cardiologist suggested I have a small procedure to fit an implant (the size of a USB stick) just under my skin on the left side of my chest, which would constantly monitor my heartbeat, and pick up any irregularities. I was nervous at the thought of being in an operating theatre - even through it was a small procedure - but I had it fitted, and tried to forget about it.

From now on, whenever I had an incident, I just pressed a button on a key fob and held it over the left side of my chest, and it would monitor 5 minutes before and after the event. Before long, the hospital had enough data to finally give me a diagnosis.

January 2018 came around, and I met up with the cardiologist, who confirmed it was something called 'Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia'. It's not life-threatening, but just gets in the way of things now and then. He also added that over time, it could completely sort itself out. There were a few more back-and-forth's with my GP, but all this time later, I finally feel much better and confidant in myself that I can deal with future episodes.

That being said, the toll it has taken on me, mentally, has been exhausting to say the least. I still have a distrust at my body in the way it just came out of nowhere, and my confidence has taken a bit of a beating through all of this, too. I was previously a confidant person, and this is something I need to work on again. Ironically, and despite the incorrect analysis of what was wrong with me at the start, anxiety now seems to be a part of me as a result of all this, and I'm working through it. It has made me become so much more aware of others who have to deal with it, and want to give more time to those who have their own struggles. We take so many things for granted, and to have your health - arguably the most basic thing that we take for granted - is something we must all be thankful for.
 

So back to DWO... Whilst there have been loads of DWO updates over the past couple of years, there were nowhere near as many as I would have liked, due to the constant fragmentation of my daily life due to my health issues. This is a site that used to have almost daily news updates, but thankfully, I feel like I am back to the point where normal service can be resumed. This is going to be a truly exciting year for Doctor Who, and I want to be where I've always been, right here on DWO, along with my fantastic team, providing you all with the very latest news, reviews and updates.

Thanks for reading this and allowing me to explain fully the reason for the lack of updates. There's probably more information than you needed, but I wanted to give you all the full picture and be clear about where I was at. Here on in, all is looking good and we have lots of exciting things planned for the site and forums in 2018!

Thank you, as always, for your support and dedication to the site. It's you the visitors and forum members who make DWO what it is, and genuinely, from the bottom of my heart, it means so much to me.

Sebastian J. Brook - Site Editor
Doctor Who Online
March 2018

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17 July 2017

As I was watching the reveal on BBC One, I was genuinely shocked when Jodie Whittaker was revealed to be our first-ever female Doctor in Doctor Who. I've always been of the opinion that The Doctor is male, and, perhaps, always should be - it has clearly been his preference for 12 (ok 13) incarnations, but maybe now really is the time for a whole new take on the role?

We live in a time of equality and representation, and TV is an important platform to portray this. The sad reality is that it has taken so long for these issues to start being reflected realistically, and even now there's still a long way to go.

I genuinely didn't think the BBC would commit to the casting of a female actor in the role of The Doctor - especially now that Top Gear has lost its shine and put Doctor Who front and centre, but I fully support and applaud them for doing so. It's a bold move to take the franchise in this direction; just as it would be to change the gender of James Bond or Buffy, but Doctor Who lends a real opportunity now that Steven Moffat has paved the way for Time Lords to change their gender as part of canon.

I do not believe this is an "experiment" or "stunt casting" - or even an attempt to "boost ratings", which, by the way, are still excellent. I think this is the BBC, and Chris Chibnall saying "the time is right!".

When Jodie removed the hood and revealed herself as the Thirteenth incarnation of The Doctor, despite my initial shock, there was something so right about her. Having watched Broadchurch from the start, I was already aware of her as an actress, and can honestly say she has a huge amount of talent that she is going to bring to the role. I am genuinely excited, and cannot wait to support Jodie and the show when it returns in 2018 (after the Christmas special, of course).

Another happy side product of the decision is that there will be a whole new generation of fans - both female and male, growing up with a new role-model to look up to. But hasn't that always been The Doctor? Throughout the show's long history The Doctor has always been on the side of good; a character everyone can look up to, and now that he will become a she, that very same trait will still be at the core.

Back in 1986, Sydney Newman (creator of Doctor Who) sent a letter to the then head of BBC, Michael Grade, actually proposing and supporting the idea of a female Doctor:


"At a later stage Doctor Who should be metamorphosed into a woman. Don’t you agree that this is considerably more worthy of the BBC than Doctor Who’s presently largely socially valueless, escapist schlock? ... This requires some considerable thought – mainly because I want to avoid a flashy, Hollywood Wonder Woman, because this kind of heroine with no flaws is a bore."


If there was any further worry that this was a bad decision, not in keeping with the show, then surely its creator, essentially giving his consent to the idea is something to take comfort in.

Yesterday was our most active day on Twitter (twitter.com/DrWhoOnline), with literally thousands of tweets from our followers and visitors, mainly in support of the new choice. There were, however, a group of fans spouting a lot of hate speech towards the BBC and Jodie Whittaker, which is completely unacceptable. Freedom of speech is one thing, but hate speech has no place in fandom. I was appalled at some of the comments I read, with some fans saying they would stop watching. One has to ask the question if they truly are fans? 

There is no denying that this has split fandom somewhat, but now is not the time for division or segregation, we should come together and rally around our new Doctor, after all, she IS The Doctor, whether you like it or not.

Fandom should be a safe place for fans of all ages to share their opinions and discuss things, and DWO will not tolerate any hate speech or intolerance of others. We will therefore be stepping up to anyone doing so on any of our website or social media platforms.

We would love to hear from you in the comments below or via the Forum Discuss link, below.

- Sebastian J. Brook; Site Editor 

[Source: DWO]

 

26 April 2017

Even before the wilderness years (1989-1996 & 1996-2005), Doctor Who fanzines have played an important role in the fandom of the show. Often produced in black and white, these periodical mailings were produced by the fans themselves, and contained all sorts of cool creations, from fan fiction, to reviews, articles, interviews, quizzes, artwork and competitions.

Since the emergence of online fandom, and the ability for fans to make their own websites, forums and social groups, fanzines appear to have drastically fallen in their numbers. But does this mean that there is no longer a place for them in our lives? Are fans content with just having Doctor Who Magazine (as awesome as it is)?

Having spoken with fans over the years at conventions and events, it seems that fanzines are still very much an important output, but it is the younger generations that are either unaware they exist or unsure of how to contribute. With this in mind, we wanted to cast a quick spotlight on Doctor Who fanzines and focus on some of the fantastic publications out there, with details on how you can join in, or even start your own!

If this is a completely new area of fandom to you, you may take heart in the knowledge that one particular fan who contributed to fanzines was none other than our 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi! Below is an excerpt from an article Peter wrote for a fanzine back in 1976:

"Watching the abstracted light forms & patterns which appear in the opening sequence of Dr. Who has become a familiar ritual for all of us. The wonder of the opening is that it manages to capture in only a very few moments of screen time the atmosphere of Dr. Who.”


You can see Peter Capaldi's full page article in the images column to the right!

Of the few fanzines that are still around, the quality is of an incredibly high calibre; take Vworp Vworp!, for example - perhaps one of the most popular of the current wave of fan publications. Their latest issue has been hailed as one of the greatest fanzines in Doctor Who history, and we've heard nothing but positivity surrounding it - it even comes with a FREE full-cast audio play!

DWO got in touch with Vworp Vworp's publisher, Gareth Kavanagh, regarding the importance of fanzines and why they enjoy producing them:


"
Originally, fanzines were our own Gutenburg Press. A place for fans to share news, gossip, opinions and thoughts on the show without any filters in place. Well that's before the internet provided a more immediate platform for these, although who can forget some of those lurid DWB news headlines (The AFRO TAPES: THEY EXIST!!!)?  But this in no way means that fanzines no longer have a place. Indeed, despite the net doing news and gossip very well and providing an immediate way for people to vent / gush, it's not as good at considered analysis, depth and opinion. This, really is what we see ourselves as being about with Vworp. Exploring lesser explored niches of Doctor Who; fandom, the comics, art and bringing new perspectives and knowledge to the table.  It's something a printed work can do so much better in my opinion.


The other thing that fanzines can do better is by being a beautiful, gorgeous piece of art. Now we recognise that not everyone has the time or resources Vworp Vworp! has, but I do think taking the time to make it look and feel special is important. It's a point Bryan Talbot made to me when he launched Alice in Sunderland as a beautiful volume at a time when digital downloads of comics were beginning to take off.  By making Alice a gorgeous physical artefact, his reckoning was that there would always be a place in someone's collection for it.  And I think he's right. The same goes for free gifts. The transfers for Vworp Vworp! #1 were an attempt to reconnect with people's ingrained and treasured sense of excitement at getting home with #1 of Doctor Who Weekly in October 1979. That sense of nostalgia is something I feel for all the great fanzines and I hope, in our own small way we've been able to add to that with Weetabix cards and vinyl Century Dalek records."


If you would like to contribute to Vworp Vworp!, you can email them directly at: info@vworpvworp.co.uk

We also got in touch with Jamie Beckwith, features writer for The Terrible Zodin fanzine, who shared his thoughts:


"The Terrible Zodin was trying to juggle an old media format but make it accessible for new media so it's released as a downloadable PDF. TTZ has grown in the 9 years we've been running and gives fans the opportunity to write about the series and showcase their artwork.

 

We always aim to have something interesting to say and whilst our initial focus was on female fandom as we felt this was an underrepresented voice, we welcome viewpoints from all. We're pleased to say we've had contributors from all over the world, not just the UK, US & Australia but places like Colombia, Poland and Japan. Fanzines are a great way of being creative about the very show which has inspired that creativity."


If you would like to contribute to The Terrible Zodin, you can email them directly at: theterriblezodinezine@yahoo.co.uk


Other fanzines worth checking out are The Tides Of Time, Fish Fingers And Custard & Celestial Toyroom - the longest-running Doctor Who fanzine in the world! You can also keep your eyes peeled for a brand new fanzine called 'Sacred Flame', produced by the London-based LGBT Doctor Who group, The Sisterhood Of Karn. (Thanks to Richard Unwin for the heads-up on that one).

Having run this site for 21 years now, we have seen an incredible amount of creativity from our visitors and followers, and it's clear that Doctor Who is responsible for creating one of the most dedicated fandoms in history. This is a show where anything is possible; a fan writing an article for a fanzine can become The Doctor! Fan artists can see their creations on actual pieces of merchandise. Fan fiction writers can become show runners or writers for the actual TV show - as we say, ANYTHING is possible!

So if you feel you have something to offer, fanzines are one of the best places to start, and we heartily recommend getting in touch with any of the aforementioned publications. Some of you may be interested in starting your own fanzines (we've put a few resources together in the links down below), but if you're struggling getting off the ground, why not get in touch with a Doctor Who group near you (USA groups here), and collaborate with likeminded fans. Come up with a catchy name, and pull together some content from local contributors, and before long you'll be well on your way!


Get in touch!

Are you thinking of starting up a fanzine? If so, we'd love to hear from you in the comments box, below, or in the DWO Forums! Likewise, if you run or recommend a particular fanzine, please also leave details below or in the Forums!

Fanzine Resources:

Doctor Who Image Archive - A fantastic archive of Doctor Who related images.
The Doctor Who Logo Collection - Throup's excellent transparent Doctor Who logos.

Brochure Prints (UK) - a cost-effective fanzine printing service, based in the UK.
Brochure Prints (USA) - a cost-effective fanzine printing service, based in the USA.


[Source: DWO]

 

2 May 2015

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

Day 852: Final Overview

Dear diary,

”There are two things in life that I'm very bad at (look at that, I'm just thirteen words in, and I've already lied. Truth be told, there's lots of things in life I'm very bad at. Like trying to make flapjacks, or successfully remove an intruding spider from my flat. There's two things I'm very bad at, though, which are vital to this entry); keeping a diary and completing a Doctor Who marathon.”

That’s how I opened my very first post of The 50 Year Diary on December 15th 2012 - just an introductory post to establish the fact that the Diary would be tasking up residence on the pages of this here website from the new year. Deciding to take on this project was a huge task right at the beginning, and especially since I know what my attention span is like. I’m interested in something for a few months at most and then my attention wanders off to something else and I never give the original topic a second thought. Frankly, the only reason that Doctor Who itself has managed to remain on my radar for this long is because there’s so much of the thing that there’s always something else I can go and look at if one part of it is starting to bore me.

But the decision to set up residence on the pages of Doctor Who Online and pen a daily diary, watching every episode in order right from the start… well, yeah, that was a big commitment. And I dived into it with barely a second thought. Had I stopped to think8 about it for longer, I’d probably never have gone through with it. There would simply be too many reasons *not to do it. Instead, when the option came up, so close to the start of a new year - Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary year - I simply grabbed it and ran.

And if I’m honest, I’m frankly stunned that I’ve made it this far. I genuinely used to wonder at what point I’d give it up. In my head, I used to try and work out what the best ‘exit’ points would be. Maybe I could do to the end of Seres One, then stop? Or just the First Doctor? Just the 1960s? I’d have to end it at a suitable point to avoid people simply pointing out that I’d failed in my mission. Obviously, I still would have failed, but had there been a nice clean break, I might have gotten away with it a little easier. In all honestly, it wasn’t until somewhere around the middle of Tom Baker’s run that I realised I’d gone too far - it was all or nothing, and there was no way I’d not go to the very end.

Which brings us to where we are today! 852 bloody entries, all of them talking about Doctor Who! Actually, slightly more than 852, because I did the two Dalek films and bits of spin-off programming for the collected volumes of the Diary. I really don’t know how I’ve managed to find this much to talk about. there are several days - lots of them! - where I read back my entry and wonder how it’s possibly of interest to anyone but me, but there’s you lot! I don’t know how many of you have been reading along since the very beginning and how many have joined along the way, but thank you very much for doing so. It’s always lovely to get comments and encouragement, and knowing that people are actually reading these posts has been reason enough to carry on! Not that all the messages have been so pleasant - I particularly liked the email we received when I dared to suggest that I didn’t really care for The Evil of the Daleks, and it was rather strongly suggested that I should be replaced by someone ‘who actually knows something about Doctor Who’. Ho hum. I’ve got that email printed out and near the computer - I look at it and smile every time my opinion on an episode doesn’t match up with the norm!

So, for this final entry, I’m just going to go back over each Doctor and give you a few facts and figures. How did their era rate on average? What was their highest-rated tale? How do I feel about them in retrospect? That sort of thing…

Starting, as is traditional, with The First Doctor… I only have one regret with the ratings I’ve given episodes throughout the course of this marathon, ad it;s the score I gave the very first episode - An Unearthly Child. I was being cautious, you see. As this project has gone on, I’ve reached a point where I don’t really have to even think8 about the scores I’m giving - I reach the end of an episode and simply *know that it’s an ‘[x]/10’, based on the scores I’ve given all the other episodes. But I didn’t want to peak too early. I’ve always hated the way that lots of ratings seem to win between ’10/10, that was brilliant’ to ‘1/10, that was awful’, with very little grey area in between. Starting with a ’10/10’ simply felt wrong, so I played it safe. 

Oh, but of course that first episode is a 10/10! I think I even knew that at the time, deep down (well, probably not even that deep…). I’d like to go back and give that one an honorary ’10’, simply because you really couldn’t ask for a better first episode to this programme - still as effective almost 52 years on as it was first time around.

Across his run of episodes - including the one-part Mission to the Unknown, in which the Doctor doesn’t appear but is credited, but excluding the audio of Farewell, Great Macedon, as it was something of an early side-step for the project - the First Doctor averaged a score of 6.57/10. The story I rated the highest from this period was The War Machines, which scored a solid 8/10 for each episode.

Looking back on these first three-or-so years of Doctor Who now… Oh, I love them. There’s an inventiveness to the William Hartnell era that I don’t think the programme has ever quite recaptured since. The facilities and budget simply aren’t there for them to achieve everything they might want to, but they still dare to at least try stories like The Web Planet, or to stage an entire Dalek Invasion of Earth from a pokey London studio. These episodes may not rate the highest overall - though this period achieved very few low scores; only two 3/10’s and a handful of 4/10’s for the entire era - but it still sits quite fondly in my memory as one of the best.

Which brings us on to The Second Doctor! Before starting out on this project, I’d always confidently claimed that Patrick Troughton was my favourite Doctor, and that The Tomb of the Cybermen was my favourite story, and I’l admit that I was a little worried that taking on this marathon might challenge that view. If anything, it’s actively strengthened the point, because I simply fell in love with this little cosmic hobo all over again.

Something that did surprise me was just how much I loved the run of stories in Troughton’s first series. Because such a chunk of that period is lost, it’s one I was far less familiar with than some of the later stories. But there’s some real gems in there, including The Macra Terror, which was the first story to receive a glowing 10/10 score (for Episode Two).

The Tomb of the Cybermen still comes in top, with an average of 8.75/10 across the four episodes. It makes it not only my highest-rated story from the Troughton period, but also the top story of the entire ’classic’ era (I’m looking at the 21st century stuff a little differently, as I’ll explain when I get there). Now, I’ll be fair an admit that the score was probably just helped by the good vibrations I get from watching this story - I’ve thought of it so long as my favourite that I simply can’t help but to enjoy it… but that’s surely the whole point of a favourite story!

What was nice about doing this marathon at this point in time is that there’s been more Troughton episodes available to watch than ever before - and by quite a margin, too! The Underwater Menace Episode Two was provided to me early on to enjoy in context, and while The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear weren’t viable to watch at the right point in time, as we’d hoped, I dipped back to them a few months later, because the alternative would have been waiting until now to see them, and frankly that just wasn’t an option. Being able to see the episodes was great (and both of them improved their average score by a small degree - it’s their second average I’m using today to calculate overall averages), but I wonder if some of that excitement simply came from the fact that I was watching two long-thought-lost stories. It’ll be interesting to see how they hold up the next time I see them - will they still be as good as I think here, or will the novelty have worn off a little, leaving them as just ‘some other Doctor Who stories’… 

Their success this time around, though, coupled with the high score of The Tomb of the Cybermen propelled Season Five into the top spot for the 1960s, averaging a score of 7.23/10 - the only black-and-white season to break a 7/10 average. I’d been worried about this particular run of stories because it was lots of six-parters in a row, and so many of the episodes were missing, I really thought it could be the point where I’d crash and burn, so it’s heartening to see that I enjoyed it all the more in the end.

Overall, the Second Doctor averages 6.90/10 across all this episodes, a healthy figure, especially when considering that two of Troughton’s stories - The Highlanders and The Dominators - sit way down towards the bottom of the list, both with an average of 4/10.

If Troughton had always been my favourite Doctor, then his successor, Jon Pertwee as The Third Doctor had always been my least favourite. It’s not that I completely silkier him, but I’d just never connected with his era in the same way I had with all the others - despite him being the first ‘classic’ Doctor I ever saw, when picking up a copy of Invasion of the Dinosaurs from the library.

What I actually found is that this run of stories is consistently strong, and it helped to contribute to an average score of 6.63/10 over the five seasons. I think that the Third Doctor was helped by such a strong first series, which helped to put my doubts about this period to rest before moving on to view the rest of it - Spearhead From Space being available to watch restored to high definition on blu ray was the perfect way to kick-start the era and catch my attention, and it came out as the top-rated story for this Doctor, with an 8/10 average.

The era then continues to be of a fairly consistent quality from then on - it never quite breaks into a 10/10 in the way that several Troughton episodes had done (though it scored several 9’s across the run), but equally, it doesn’t get as many lower scores, either, with only The Curse of Peladon rating below a 5/10 average.

Pertwee’s era is particularly notable for it’s run of high-quality opening episodes - fourteen (out of a possible twenty four) of them score an 8/10, and there’s a run from The Three Doctors to Death to the Daleks which consistently scores an 8/10 for the first episode - the longest run of this type across the entire marathon. That winning streak is only broken by The Monster of Peladon scoring a 7/10 for Part One, before we’re greeted by another three with such strong starts, which moves us past the regeneration and into the era of…

The Fourth Doctor! Oh, everyone talks about Tom Baker as the ‘definitive’ Doctor (or, at least, they did until David Tennant came along to steal the crown). As soon as I took my first steps into fandom, I was told that the Fourth Doctor was by far the best. That was just an established fact, and you weren’t to argue the point. Within that ‘fact’, the Hinchcliffe era of Seasons Twelve, Thirteen, and Fourteen, were by far the peak of not just this Doctor, but of Doctor Who as a whole. I love to be a bit country and simply say what I think, even if it doesn’t subscribe to the accepted opinion of an era, so I was all ready to point out that the Hinchcliffe run is merely alright

But then it was actually pretty darn good! On average, the episodes produced by Philip Hinchcliffe rate 7.06/10, which for the ‘classic’ series places him behind only Derek Sherwin (who’s helped by only producing two stories, one of which features three 10/10 episodes), and in the gran scheme of things places him third, just 0.01 point behind the Russell T Davies run. Sadly, this means that Tom Baker is on a generally downward trajectory from the off, with the Graham Williams run of Seasons Fifteen, Sixteen, and Seventeen (including Shada), averaging a significantly lower 6.33/10, and Season Eighteen, under the eye of John Nathan-Turner only coming in with 6.14/10.

The highest rated story of the Fourth Doctor’s mammoth run is The Face of Evil, which comes away with an average score of 8.25/10, while over all, the Fourth Doctor rates 6.60/10, dipping him just slightly behind the Third Doctor. It’s undeniable that Tom Baker is brilliant in the role, and he’s often a joy to watch (for many different reasons - his closing around in the likes of City of Death is just as engaging as his anger and fury in Planet of Evil), but the latter half of his run really does suffer with some below-par episodes, and the lack of money being given to the programme at that point becomes cripplingly obvious in places. Wheres the Hartnell era managed to take its meagre budget and make the most of it, by putting the cash on screen, some parts of this era… um… doesn’t. In the end, I think it’s fair to say that Baker simply remained in the part for too long, and it’s telling that there’s a real breath of fresh air when the new chap comes in.

The first season to feature The Fifth Doctor, Season Nineteen, really is a shot in the arm, jumping up to an average of 6.69/10, and featuring the Fifth Doctor’s highest rated story - Kinda, with an average of 8.50/10. On top of this, the season also features the 8/10 Earthshock, which would have been a high enough score to win outright in other eras.

And Earthshock isn’t the last Fifth Doctor tale to score so highly - The Five Doctors and Frontios both also tip the scales at 8/10 on average, with The Caves of Androzani not falling too far behind, with a 7.75/10 average. On the whole, there was a lot about the Fifth Doctor’s era that simply chimed with me, and the presence of so many great stories really did help.

In the end, though, Peter Davison’s Doctor comes away with an average of 6.65/10 - only just scraping above Tom Baker and Peter Davison’s score by the tiniest of margins. He’s hampered by a weak second season, in which only two stories manage to hold a higher average than 6.25/10, and despite Season Twenty-One having a slew of better tales, it’s simply too late to make any real difference. Peter Davison has often said of his time on the show that if the stories of his third year had been the stories of his second, then he’d have stayed longer, and it’s really not hard to see what he means.

Ah, The Sixth Doctor. Doctor Who’s problem child. If it was made clear to me early on that everyone loved Tom Baker and considered him to be the best Doctor, then it was made equally clear that Colin Baker held the exact opposite position in fandom’s heart. And yet, I’d always enjoyed the Sixth Doctor - I’d seen all of his stories at least once before taking part in this project, and I’d always enjoyed them well enough.

This time around, however… well, no, I’ll be fair. the majority of the Sixth Doctor’s run is rather good. Not outstanding (no episode scores higher than an 8/10), but fairly solid, and at least on par with large chunks of his predecessors. The problem for me came in the form of both Attack of the Cybermen and Timelash, two stories which are consigned to languish right down in the bottom five of the list. They each averaged just 2.5/10, and were the first time I really appreciated just how bad Doctor Who can be when all the elements fall into just the wrong place. 

Colin Baker himself though is electrifying from the word go, and every bit the Doctor as any of the others. It’s a crushing shame that we didn’t get to see more of him, because in the right production atmosphere, I think he’d easily be considered equal to Tom in the popularity stakes. With a bit more creative force working behind the scenes, this period could have really shone. As it is, Colin’s Doctor rates only a 5.77/10 average, making him the lowest rated in this marathon, sadly, and the only incarnation to sink below a 6/10 average. His highest rated story - The Mark of the Rani - is a crowning jewel in his lacklustre first season, and while things do pull back together again for The Trial of a Time Lord season, it’s not enough to save him from the bottom of the pile. A real shame, and very undeserved for a man who not only turned in a flawless performance during his time on the programme, but has continued to be one of the greatest ambassadors for the show in the thirty years since. 

It’s perhaps for the best, though, that they didn’t give Colin Baker just one more season to prove himself in, though, because The Seventh Doctor’s debut run in Season Twenty-Four rates as the weakest season on average across the entire project, coming in with a measly score of just 4.93/10. I was so sure that I’d be a champion for these our stories. They were so often blasted as being terrible, and I was in a position to be a real spokesperson for the quality in each of them… but oh dear.

It’s not that they’re terrible - there’s lots of great ideas and concepts in there - but something seems to have just gone wrong with this season. It’s as though every department has been handed a directive from above that Doctor Who is a children’s programme, and that it needs to be treated as such. It’s very strange, and a real shift in direction for the show - probably the biggest change since the switch between Seasons Seventeen and Eighteen. After all the behind-the-scenes troubles of the Sixth Doctor era, it’s almost as though the team behind the programme simply don’t know what to do with it any more, and you can’t really feel John Nathan-Turner’s hand in this as well as you can elsewhere.

But it’s not the be-all and end-all, because this new creative team really pull themselves together for Season Twenty-Five, which shifts up a massive amount to an average across the run of 6.93/10! It’s here that you can feel Andrew Cartmel starting to take hold of the programme, and reinvigorating the entire thing. It’s Doctor Who starting to find its voice again, and that transformation only continues on into Season Twenty Six, which sits a million miles away from the low points at the start of this era - becoming my highest rated season of the entire marathon with an average score of 7.57/10! There’s something really rather marvellous about the fact that a single era can manage to straddle both ends of the scale like this, and it makes it even more of a crushing blow when the programme comes to an end at this point, with the final story - Survival - taking to top-rated spot for this era, with an average of 8/33/10. 

As the programme’s longest-serving producer, John Nathan-Turner comes in for a lot of flack. It’s fair to say that he didn’t always manage to make the best decisions for the show, but he held it together through a decade which would have, I suspect, always seen the end of the run. Overall, his time in charge of the show averages 6.36/10, which places him in around the same ballpark as many of the other producers across the programme’s lifetime - and he certainly did a lot more good for the show than he did bad.

It’s all change as we reach The Eighth Doctor, and it becomes a little trickier to compare story-to-story across eras. You’ll have noticed that there’s no great big list of how things stack up against each other with this post - and that’s because there’s no really fair way of doing it. I chose to give each episode an individual score out of ten, so that the ‘average’ score is a truer representation of the way I felt while watching. That way, the fantastic first episode of The Space Museum, for example, isn’t tarnished by the awful three episodes that follow it, but rather balanced fairly against them. That’s fine for the ‘classic’ series where all but two stories contain multiple episodes to balance, but when you reach the TV Movie and forward into the 21st century run, there’s so many ‘one-off’ stories that it becomes trickier to offset them against their predecessors.

Paul McGann’s Doctor is the perfect example of this - his Doctor average is 9/10, which places him way out ahead of all the other incarnations, but only because that’s being based on this one single episode! It skews the data a little bit, but we can at least still see how the Doctors stack up roughly from here-on out (and, in fairness, it’s really comparing the episodes that causes trouble - trying to compare the Doctors is only hampered by the one-off nature of McGann, and arguably John Hurt…

The Ninth Doctor heralds the start of the modern era of 8Doctor Who* - the first set of episodes that I’d watched on original transmission and had followed right the way through to the present day. I was looking just as forward to this version of the programme as I had been any part of the ‘classic’ run, because though I’d seen all these episodes before, many I’d not watched since their original transmission, so it was still like coming to them new in many ways.

Whereas Colin Baker’s short run had shown how so few episodes could lead to a lower score because there simply wasn’t long enough for the right episodes to come along, Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor shows that the opposite can also be true. His thirteen episodes average 7.31/10, and he’s the only Doctor to have two stories occupying the spot of ‘highest-rated’, with both Dalek and Boom Town sitting happily in a ‘9/10’ slot. The rest of his run holds fairly decent scores, with only The Long Game really letting the side down with a 5/10.

But in the blink of an eye, our fantastic northern Doctor was gone and replaced with The Tenth Doctor, who manages to become an icon for the programme to a whole new generation. David Tennant’s run isn’t a million miles away in trajectory from Sylvester McCoy’s - although he doesn’t start from such a low position, the seasons do tend to get better as they go along - with Series Two averaging 6.79/10, Series Three climbing up to 7.07/10, and Series Four soaring to 7.43/10 - far and away the highest scoring series of the 21st century. The Tenth Doctor’s final fun of specials drops way down to a 6.20/10 average (if added onto Series Four, as they were listed as such in production terms, the average for that season drops back to 7.11/10, putting the run second to Eccleston’s series), leaving the Tenth Doctor to bow out in a somewhat muted way.

The highest rated story of the David Tennant years is The Unicorn and the Wasp, coming in with one of only two 10/10 scores this side of Kinda. The Tenth Doctor on the whole rates a solid 7/10, and Russell T Davies as the architect of the modern era comes in with a respectable average of 7.07/10.

Things take a bit of a dip again for me as we reach The Eleventh Doctor era. On first transmission, I found that I simply didn’t enjoy this period of the programme. I’d tune in each week and find occasional gems, but overall I simply wasn’t fond. This time around, I think things have fared a little better - and getting to watch the era back-to-back over a couple of months like this has really made some of the links between stories stand out all the stronger. None of the Eleventh Doctor seasons manage to break past 7/10 on average (the highest is Series Seven with a score of 6.87/10), and the Eleventh Doctor rates slightly lower than his immediate predecessors, with an average of 6.80/10.

The Snowmen comes in as Matt Smith’s strongest story, with a perfect 10/10 score, while at the other end of the spectrum, both the previous Christmas special, The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe, and Series Six’s Night Terrors sit at the very bottom of my list, with a score of just 2/10 each.

And finally onto The Twelfth Doctor’s run. When this set of episodes first went out last year, I loved them. Was completely blown away by them. It felt like a real shot in the arm after a few years of not enjoying the programme as much as I’d like. On this second run through, I’ve found my opinions cooling a lot towards them, to the point that the entire 2014 run (up to and including Last Christmas) has only averaged 6.77/10, which places it in more-or-less the same ball park as any of the Eleventh Doctor’s seasons, although lower than both Series Five and Seven. I’ve explained some of my reasoning behind that in yesterday’s entry, but I’m hoping that as the era is still young, I can find a little more to love as I go along. 

Equally, it may simply be that these episodes have suffered by being the last ones. After two-and-a-half years of doing an episode every day, being this close to the end of the line has probably contributed towards the feeling of Series Eight being a bit of a slow to watch again - hopefully that feeling will abate when I see any of these stories again in due corse. Besides, it’s not all bad news, with the era’s highest-rater, Robots of Sherwood, scoring a healthy 9/10.

***

And so… that’s that, I suppose! Over the last two-and-a-bit years, I’ve often wondered how I’d feel about Doctor Who once I was done. Having sat through it all, would I find myself horrified by the thought of ever watching another one? Tipping my entire DVD collection into a big skip? Sick at the sign of a Dalek?

Well, I’m pleased to say that, no, none of those things have occurred. If anything, watching the programme in this way has given me a renewed respect for Doctor Who, and I can appreciate even more just how brilliant this programme is, for having watched it unfold in order. If anything, I have to admit, I’m keen to do it all over again, right from the very beginning. I’m probably going to give it a little while before doing so (I’m actually on holiday back home at the moment, and it’s going to be nice to enjoy the next week away without having to tune in to the TARDIS for a change!), but I reckon before this year is out, I’ll be back on the pilgrimage!

So finally, I just want to issue a few thanks. Thank you, of course, to Sebastian J. Brook, editor of Doctor Who Online, for handing over his website to me for two years to fill with all my ramblings and nonsense. Thank you to Nick Mellish for listening to me whine on about all these episodes as they come and go, and acting as a sounding board when I can’t figure out what on Earth to write about. And thank you to you lot, for following along with me on this journey, and keeping my interest there in the project. It really does make a difference when you know people are taking part!

Will

If by any miracle you’re still interested in me wittering on, you can find me over on Twitter, where I tend to post just as much nonsense as I have in this Diary, as well as snippets of artwork and projects that I’m working on. And if you’re eager for more of the Diary, you can find it all collected together in book form - both in physical format and on Kindle (UK/US). There’s occasional extra entries in the books, and on several posts I’ve gone back and re-written the bits that simply don’t make sense.

1 May 2015

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

Day 851: Last Christmas

Dear diary,

Every Christmas is ‘Last Christmas’, this episode tells us, and it’s certainly the ‘Last Christmas’ for The 50 Year Diary, because after 851 days, I’m finally at the end of my mission to watch Doctor Who one episode a day from the very beginning. I’ll be posting a final entry tomorrow looking back over the entire project and discussing it in a little more detail, but for now, it’s time for one final adventure with the Doctor…

As Christmas specials for the programme go, Last Christmas is one of the better ones, if not one of the best. I’ve noticed a trend when re-watching Series Eight for this marathon, in that on the whole, by opinion of the episodes has gone down. Sometimes it’s gone down by quite a hefty amount. On only a couple of occasions has it gone up. One of the biggest problems that I’ve found on this viewing of the series - which I’ve only really touched on very briefly so far - is that it’s suddenly pitched at a slightly older audience than it has for the last few years. The combination of a later timeslot and a shift in tone through the stories themselves seems far less geared towards the youngsters than I always thing the programme should be (and I’m sorry to say that I know of more kids than I can count on two hands who stopped watching last year because it simply didn’t appeal to them any more. To that end, when Santa Claus was announced as a guest star for the Christmas episode, I did wonder if they might be trying to readdress the balance and win back some of the younger fans, but as I wrote in my preview of the episode last December:

”People have speculated that a special starring Santa and his elves, with reindeer and the North Pole is a sign of the programme becoming more child-friendly than some episodes of the latest run have been, but that’s not necessarily the case. There’s still plenty of humour and fun to be found in the sometimes dark situations that play out in this North Pole base, but the arrival of Father Christmas doesn’t exactly herald songs and lightness.”

That’s something that I’ve been musing on throughout this episode today. I rather like the darker tone of the programme in itself - it’s certainly provided us with some stories like Mummy on the Orient Express which I’ve really enjoyed - but I’m finding my enjoyment of the episode, and the series as a whole, tainted by wondering if perhaps it’s shifted focus that bit too much. Series Nine is, depending who you listen to, either staying in the same vein as the last run was, or changing completely to lighten the mood. I think I’d like a bit of a combination - Doctor Who can do lots of great stories that are scary and - though I’m loathe to say it - ‘dark’, but there’s just something… missing at the moment which has been all too apparent on second viewing.

But, leaving aside my own thoughts on who the programme should be pitching itself to, what did I like about this story, even the second time around? Well, I’m rather keen on the way that everything ties together. The use of Santa is very clever, and I love the idea that you never quite know if he’s real or not, and the use of dreams is done rather brilliantly - on the first viewing, I certainly didn’t guess the various twists and reveals, and I enjoyed trying to work it all out as we went along. There’s several of those great revelations, where you work it out just seconds before the answer is revealed, and that’s always rather engaging viewing.

But the thing I like the most about this one simply has to be Peter Capaldi. Having been through this marathon, I’ve had the spotlight shone on each Doctor in turn for several months at a time over the last few years, and it’s really remarkable how they’ve managed to strike gold every single time. I’ll admit that I was worried when Peter was cast - not because I didn’t think he’d be brilliant or that he’d be wrong for the part, but simply because it was something that everybody seemed to agree upon. Wherever yo turned, people were nodding in agreement and looking forward to the future of Doctor Who. That rarely happens in a fandom, so it was a little unsettling, and I couldn’t help wondering if it was the sign of a mistake! But of course it wasn’t, because over this first series, Capaldi has shown us that he’s just the man Hartnell, or Pertwee, or McCoy, or any of them were - and the future really is bright in his hands.

The rather nice thing about finishing this marathon at this point is that Doctor Who’s future seems to be assured for the next few years at the very least. Even though I’ve now experienced every episode in some form or another, there’s always new Doctor Who on the horizon, and that’s possibly the most exciting thing of all.

I’ll see you back here tomorrow for a final summing up and, for the first time in ages, a day when I won’t have to watch an episode! That doesn’t mean I won’t watch one, mind. I’ll probably cave by around the middle of the afternoon… 

30 April 2015

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

Day 850: Death in Heaven

Dear diary,

Ooft. As finales go, this one really does try to shoot for the stars, doesn’t it? It’s been a while since I’ve said just how much the scale of this programme has developed in the decade since it returned to screens in Rose, and that’s especially noticeable in this story. Visually, the series looks a million miles away, but also… can you imagine the kind of UNIT set up we’ve got here when you look at them in Aliens of London? Heck, even compared to Series Four and the first big return of the Taskforce en masse, this is a whole extra leap forwards. Put simply, all the UNIT scenes of this episode are shot like a proper movie, and they’re all the better for it.

It’s also rather lovely to finally have our own little 21st century version of the UNIT ‘family’ back in action! The first time I discovered that Kate and Osgood would be making a return to the programme for Series Eight was on a trip in to town to do a bit of shopping, when I found the street blocked off because UNIT were confronting an invasion of Cybermen. It really is a hazard of living in Cardiff. Oh, but it’s so brilliant to have this little team that can make return appearances (and it’s even greater that we’re getting a Kate-led UNIT spin off on audio later this year). All of this makes it all the more poignant when they go and kill Osgood! Of all the people! Steven Moffat is right when he says that if you want to show just how evil Missy can be then you have to kill Osgood, because she’s the only target that will wrench at your heart that much. I watched this episode for the first time at the premiere in Cardiff, and the whole room at that moment erupted in a mixture of gasps and cries of ‘no!’. In the question and answer session afterwards, someone asked if Osgood was really dead and it was revealed that yes, she is. But then, there’s still a Zygon version running around possibly, so I live in hope! When only moments later Kate gets whipped out of the aeroplane in mid-flight, it really does do the trick of keeping you glued to the screen - it’s Doctor Who at its most exciting (though I can’t tell you how relieved I am that she’s alive).

Those UNIT parts of the episode are the ones that really work the most for me, though, because I’m simply not as invested in everything else. The emotion is all there, and I can certainly connect to the scenes in the graveyard between Clara and Danny (and they are good), but they simply don’t appeal to me in the same way that the rest of the story does. I might be but a simple mind, but I’d have been keen for some more all-out Cyberman battles. There’s my Camfield-esque attack force on the streets of London?! As the cap to Peter Capaldi’s first season as the Doctor, though? I like it. We started the season with old friends learning to accept who this new Doctor is, and we end the run with old friends who don’t even bat an eyelid at it. This man is the Doctor now, and long may he continue to be so.

29 April 2015

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

Day 849: Dark Water

Dear diary,

As finales go, this one doesn’t pull any punches, does it? When a semi-regular character, who’s played quite a prominent role over the last three months, is killed off before the opening credits have even rolled, you know that they’re not messing around. Things are about to get very serious, very quickly. When you then move from that to the companion taking the Doctor and threatening to separate him from the TARDIs forever unless he does as she commands… well, it’s the kind of thing that a hundred fan theories talk about every year, but I never thought they’d be bold enough to actually do it on screen. Oh, it’s exciting.

That said, once we’re past all that initial excitement, things do rather slow down a notch. I still can’t help but feel that Dark Water is really a great big 45 minute prequel for the main event in the next episode. This one really is just about moving all the pieces into position, and getting everyone up-to-speed with what’s going on, so that the hour that follows it can simply get on with doing everything that it wants to.

That’s not to say that there’s not things to love about this episode, because there really are plenty. Those aforementioned opening scenes are wonderful (and bringing back Clara’s gran for the beef scene in her kitchen is the thing that suddenly makes Danny’s death hit home - it makes Clara’s world feel that little bit more real), and the payoff to them, with the Doctor and Clara alone in the TARDIS following her betrayal is simply breathtaking. It’s Capaldi and Coleman at their finest, and the same can be said of the Twelfth Doctor and Clara, too. I simply have to quote the scene, because it’s so well done;

DOCTOR

You betrayed me. Betrayed my trust, you betrayed our friendship, you betrayed everything that I've ever stood for. You let me down! 

CLARA

Then why are you helping me?

DOCTOR

Why? Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference? 

Everything they’ve been though this season has been leading up tho this moment, and it’s wonderful. A real highlight.

And then, throughout the rest of the episode, you’ve got Missy! Oh, wasn’t it a great reveal? I was fairly certain that she was going to be revealed as the master, but had to watch on transmission, because the preview copies we were sent at Doctor Who Online were censored! Great big black screens and silence in both the museum scene and the one out on the steps of St Paul’s - both of which then cut back to Peter Capaldi giving a look that’s a mixture of bafflement and horror. Everything around it seemed to so obviously point at Missy being the Master, but then there’s always the possibility that she might not be, and the the wool had been pulled over everyone’s eyes…

But actually discovering that we were right, and that it is the Master? Oh, that doesn’t make it any less brilliant. It helps that Michelle Gomez must be the best Master since the original. She’s so wonderful, and I’m ecstatic that we’re getting her back for another adventure next year. 

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