Thursday, 30 June 2011

Delta And The Bannermen (Part 2)

Originally Broadcast 9th November 1987
Written by: Malcolm Kohll

In a nutshell: Aware that the Bannermen have tracked down Delta, the Doctor begins an evacuation of Shangri-La.

Review: I think this part is (somehow) even worse than the previous, with not a lot going on at all. I think the only plot point is that the Bannermen have reached Shangri-La and that’s about all. The Doctor spends most of this episode running to music that would go amiss in Benny Hill let alone Doctor Who, undermining the entire production. Kohll’s writing is horrendous, with somehow all the characters just accepting all the facts and somehow knowing everything with no explanation needed, which, whilst speeding things up for the audience, is a really amateur way of storytelling and not something I’d expect to ever see occur on television.

I think this is a review that’s really going to struggle to say anything, let alone anything creative or kind toward the episode. The two FBI characters are once again a complete waste of time, doing nothing except irritate me as to why I’m spending precious minutes of story watching them. Well I say precious minutes; the Doctor’s still just sat on the back of a motorbike, so maybe we should go back to the FBI guys? Parts of the episode are so badly staged its cringe worthy, one particular case of this is we cut to Delta already happily sitting in the sidecar of the bike, before asking “What is this?” as it saves a bit of time.

This episode does, surprisingly, have two fantastic points to it. The first of these is the fact the Bannermen murder everyone on the bus, not even some of the most chilling Who monsters have done that before, so it really strikes as setting them down as horrible villains and the other is the cliffhanger, purely for McCoy, who’s desperately trying to show his Doctor can be great even with a bad script written for another Doctor. I’ll leave you with four words that would’ve made this episode a little bit better, before I’m back with part three.

Don’t. Paint. The. Baby.

Preview: Doctor Who Magazine #436

I've grabbed my £4.99(!) copy of Doctor Who Magazine #436 and had a look through it. Once again, it looks fantastic! This is a 'salute' to the wonderful Nicholas Courtney, containing interviews with probably around 50 people from the world of Who, all wanting to share thoughts on the late Brigadier. These include Tom Baker, Colin Baker, Sly McCoy, David Tennant, Russell T Davies and many more.

'The Fact Of Fiction' covers 1970's 'Inferno' (Nick's favourite story), there's also two features around Courtney himself, as well as (shoved to the back) the concluding half of an interview with Alex Kingston plus a four-page feature on 'Torchwood: Miracle Day'.

This issue looks like an amazing dedication to one of the best ever actors to appear in Doctor Who and clocks in at 100 pages!

Cover art for DWM 436

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Delta And The Bannermen (Part 1)

Originally Broadcast 2nd November 1987
Written by: Malcolm Kohll

In a nutshell: Gavrok and the Bannermen are hunting Delta, the Chimeron Queen as she escapes to 1959 Earth aboard a bus/spaceship full of aliens, which also happens to carry Mel and the Doctor.

Review: There’s very few good things to comment on about this episode, however the budget does go to good use. I’m always hearing how the 1980s (especially late 1980s) suffered from incredibly poor budget allocations but they must’ve had a good deal shelled out onto this episode. I mean, fair enough, not many of the effects look great, but there are a lot of them used here, such as the flying bus, the spaceship (looking very “You Only Live Twice”), the transformation from alien to bus driver and the list goes on. I think there’s more effects used here than in the majority of other sole episodes in the show.

Now moving onto acting (or rather, attempts at acting), it’s incredibly hard to find good performances with some cast members. Belinda Mayne’s Delta is very wooden, especially in her opening scenes, where she’s meant to have an army at her control (I’m guessing) to fight the Bannermen army. However all sides and events in this opening scene fails to impress and results in a cheap, tacky feel to match parts of the acting. I’m not sure who’s idea it was for green army soldier toys to be aliens here, all they do is succeed in reminding me of Toy Story and how good that was compared to how good this isn’t.

Comedian Ken Dodd makes a glittery appearance
 The one character I have to pick out from this episode is the brilliantly camp Johnny Dennis as Murray, it’s such a fantastic and believable portrayal of a tour guide on holiday, he really does make the whole episode that much more enjoyable. This is definitely needed as you get so much more things wasted such as the two FBI agents who are incredibly annoying and serve no purpose (maybe they will later on, but they’ve achieved sod all in part one!). I’m not sure how (in 1959) they got a line through to the White House instantly from a police telephone box, you know, one of those police boxes “in Wales, England”.

McCoy’s Doctor isn’t written at his best for this, he has some good lines of dialogue when he meets Ken Dodd’s Tollmaster but other than that he’s irritating, too heavy on sci-fi mumbo jumbo or just stupid, such as when he sneezes to create the (clich├ęd written) cliffhanger. The other part of the cliffhanger involves Bonnie Langford screaming so we’ll just move on, shall we?

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The End Of The World

Originally Broadcast 2nd April 2005
Written by: Russell T. Davies

In a nutshell: For her first trip in the TARDIS, the Doctor takes Rose Tyler to the year five billion to witness the end of the world.

Review: I’m going to take a moment and do this review in two halves, as I love this story for thirty minutes, therefore my opinions are going to separated into good and bad, starting off with the good, proving it can’t only get better.

Good: RTD made the brilliant best decision to make episode two big budget and bold, with aliens left, right and centre. The fact that director Euros Lyn can’t make a camera shot without showing someone blue or a tree really shows off what this television series is to the new audience. With ‘Rose’ the idea was to sell the characters slowly, tell us the Doctor is alien and make us love Rose, which we do, so the idea with ‘The End Of The World’ is to throw us into the deep end and give us aliens. But at the same time, we get a mix of the odd aliens with the familiar; it’s our planet about to burn (we instantly relate) and Rose goes through all the human emotions we expect and love from our good ol’ British drama.

I wonder if that set will be reused a few times this year?
Performance is on top form from everyone too, I love all the characters here, Eccleston in particular being fantastic at expressing his love of the aliens and trying to impress Rose. I love Zoe Wanamaker’s voice over, Jimmy Vee’s Moxx and, of course, Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler. All the elements really come together here, actors are given good writing and deliver all their lines with amazement and awe from the audience.

Another reason this is good is because it’s just so wacky, there’s fun contained in every minute of the episode, with lines like “He’s blue?” and Cassandra’s idea of Ipods and Ostrich eggs as well as “I give you air from my lungs”. We get given so many alien concepts but we get so many jokes to introduce them it gives a sort of mild Douglas Adams feel to the episode, this could have easily been one of the (few) stand out episodes of the 1979-1980 series of the show, but the fact it’s made with a 2005 budget exaggerates how good the episode really is.

Yasmin Bannerman (Jabe/Tree lady) with Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor is a really powerful, emotional journey hidden away in this episode, I could actually see them have a relationship and reminds me a little of the Doctor getting engaged from ‘The Aztecs’ (1964) but with more tears. It’s great we’re given this introduction into the Doctor’s personal history through a once-off character as she’s really needed to push the Doctor in a way that Rose couldn’t as this point in her journey. There’s some really sad scenes here and Eccleston gives possibly his best performance as the ninth incarnation more than once in these thirty minutes.

"What sort of date are you?"
But then, we reach the half hour mark and we get…

Bad: Giant fans. Who on earth thought giant fans would work in this? I have to give a small credit to RTD, he laughs about this scene (in interviews such as a 2006 DWM) and admits it’s just a bit of fun, but it’s the weakest part of the story. And for someone who’s told “Stop wasting time, Time Lord”, the Doctor doesn’t half take his time to walk through the first and second fan, making poor Jabe burn like a tree, oh, wait a minute. Anyway, moving on to:

Cassandra. I really just don’t like her. She’s definitely got her good points, such as Wanamaker providing the voice and she’s quite funny at times, making stereotyped jokes about her many husbands, which I must admit I do like, but I can’t quite put my finger on why I don’t like her. She was written in as the villain too obviously although there is a moment where RTD throws in the robots to keep us off the scent (which doesn’t work). She works decently as a one-time villain, but not twice, this isn’t the review for it so don’t even get me started on ‘New Earth’ (2006)!

Cassandra: A marmite villain?
There’s not really a lot more to add, bar little things that just grate me like the sun filter stuff and how the characters can touch the wall a second after the suns burnt it to a crisp, as well as Billie Piper’s acting paired up with green screen. It’s ten of the last fifteen minutes where the ‘adventure’ has to kick in, giving us loud music, explosions and other stuff that apparently the twenty-first century audience has to have in everything.

Luckily, we come back full circle and the episode works wonders again from Cassandra’s apparent death, giving us more insight into the evilness of Eccleston’s Doctor (something I love the payoff for, three years down the line in 2008’s ‘Journey’s End’) before the final scene, where we learn what has become of the Doctor’s planet. There’s some very powerful emotions RTD plays with in just forty-five minutes, forcing the audience to feel love, then sadness, then fun and excitement, it really sets the tone for the new series tenure. Overall, I love this episode, but it’s definitely full of faults, which sadly drag the episode down in many people’s minds.

Monday, 27 June 2011

The Time Monster (Episode 6)

Originally Broadcast 24th June 1972
Written by: Robert Sloman

In a nutshell: The Doctor and Jo have made it to Atlantis but have failed to stop the Master, who is adamant on controlling the all-powerful time monster, Kronos.

Review: The final part of this less-than-favoured serial doesn’t get off to the best start, recapping from the poor cliffhanger set from the previous part. Dave Prowse (later to be known as Darth Vader) portrays what is possibly the cheapest and least terrifying looking Minotaur in television. But I’m happy to have such a huge fan-based name enter into the Who mythology, so I can overlook how nasty this turned out.

The Master is on fine form throughout this episode and, indeed, the majority of the serial. Despite some dodgy writing given to him previously in ‘The Time Monster’, Delgado’s incarnation is possibly his most evil in this episode, as he tries to gain control of Kronos. I love the scene where the Doctor is threatening to ‘TARDIS-ram’ the Master (I know it’s not the greatest name in the world!). This scene is my favourite from this story but then it ultimately results in a hideous CSO shot (one of the worst in Barry Letts tenure on the show) with a giant female Kronos, which lets the finale of the story down a little. And don’t even get me started on how pathetic the Master’s escape here is, it infuriates me the amount of times I’ve seen that happen on television!

I don’t really like Ingrid Pitt as much here either, the acting I have nothing against, but the way the character swings her mind to and fro the Master is a bit quick and unbelievable in places.

This episode contains a very famous scene in fandom between the Doctor and Jo, as Pertwee recalls the ‘darkest day of his life’, resulting in him approaching an old hermit who would go on to be mentioned again in the seventies. He also makes an appearance in ‘Planet Of The Spiders’ according to Terrance Dicks (‘The Final Curtain’ DVD Extra on the release), although I’m not sure about that! The monologue, whilst famous, is drawn out a little although I love the performance given by the Doctor and Jo and how they both had the same initial reaction, making my love for Jo as a companion strengthen more.

By the time Atlantis is (quite convincingly) destroyed and the Master (quite lamely) escaped, it’s about time we returned to see how Stuart and Ruth are getting on with ‘Baby Benton’ (a brilliant name). To be honest, I’d forgotten all about this plot line as we’ve disappeared from it for an hour! It just results in Benton growing up (naked) with ‘falling about’ cheesy laughter from the regulars. I just wonder what their laughing at?

Pitt doesn't know quite how much she likes Delgado

Friday, 24 June 2011

The Time Monster (Episode 5)

Originally Broadcast 17th June 1972
Written by: Robert Sloman

In a nutshell: With the Doctor and Jo separated in the time vortex, the Master is free to travel to Atlantis to gain control of the powerful Kronos.

Review: This was a nice change of pace from the previous four parts, as we’re now in fresh surroundings, giving a ‘boost’ to the serials appearance. A lot of elements worked really well such as Jo interacting with Atlanteans. She’s arguably the best companion when it comes to treating other races the same as her and so it’s no surprise here that she puts on a friendly face and makes friends quickly. I’m not too sure about her Atlantean attire with her fake hair, but it’s catchy.

Paul Bernard’s directing of this story, however, is not so catchy, with the cliffhanger feeling forced upon the audience as the episode got closer and closer to that twenty-five minute mark aided by a wobbly, unattractive zoom-in on Jo’s shocked face. I’m not overly keen on the Doctor’s escape from the previous episodes ending either, with him contacting Jo to push a button marked ‘extreme emergency’.  I was already sceptical, yet I was firmly against it as Jo pulled the level with such force the TARDIS console shook with her.

Some things are meant to be awesome, no matter what serial it appears in, such as the Master flirting with Ingrid Pitt’s Galleia, which just looked so charming and fun to see the Master wooing somebody for his own evil doings. I liked almost everything about Pitt’s performance, although not the hinted-at love between her and the over-camp Hippias, portrayed by Aidan Murphy, despite the fact it gave a nice look back at how a character as changed before they appear onscreen in a Doctor Who adventure, a rarity of the show. I have my doubts that this high standard (well, high standard for this serial) of the show will be carried out successfully as I head into the final episode of ‘The Time Monster’.

Delgado flirts with the wonderful Ingrid Pitt

Updates and the world of Doctor Who

Hi everyone, I'm starting off by saying I've missed a day of blogging down the line this week, my blogs been a bit unresponsive, not letting me post any pictures and I can't reply to the comment by Charley on 'The Time Monster 2' despite my blog telling me I've replied twice! I've changed the font of my posts but please tell me if it's still hard to read and I'll play around with colours and fonts! Also a thank you for being my first follower and any feedbacks great.
I might be getting a reviewing stint on a website called, it's a good site for comics, especially smaller company comics if you want to get out of the overpopulated DC/Marvel game.

I'm going to be returning to posting 'The Time Monster' later on today and once that stories finished I'm turning to the next Eccleston episode 'The End Of The World'. I've found some rare interviews recently too, which I'll be listening/watching over this week so look out for those! And for anybody who has Doctor Who Magazine #332 check out Gareth Roberts "Same Old Story" article which is brilliant! I'll try to get it uploaded here shortly.

Did anybody buy the 'Earth Story' box set this week, with Hartnell's 'The Gunfighters' and Davison's 'The Awakening'? I've watched the extras on the first story and there's a brilliant forty-five minute documentary about the third year of the show, check that out as it's great!

Finally whats the thoughts on Moffat's plans for 2012? Personally I think he should either focus purely on Sherlock or Who and not try to juggle both, but maybe the real reason for no full 2012 series is due to the BBC budget cuts? It wouldn't be the first time, as this years series of Merlin (due to be broadcast around October 2011) was originally going to be cut from 13 episodes to 10.

I'll leave you in peace now and get on to uploading the penultimate episode of 'The Time Monster'. Thanks for reading my blog everyone!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Time Monster (Episode 4)

Originally Broadcast 10th June 1972
Written by: Robert Sloman

In a nutshell: In similar situations to episode three, the Master attempts to leave for Atlantis, however the Doctor makes a drastic attempt to stop him.

Review: Firstly, I’m surprised we’ve still not made it to Atlantis, as the Master has had this planned since episode one or two and the Doctor has been aware of it since the opening ‘dream sequence’ of the first part. However this part makes up for us not being there yet, as we get some really great interaction between Doctor and Master.

I’m speaking, of course, about the scene of a TARDIS within a TARDIS where our characters are seemingly forced to speak to each other. Delgado obviously steals the scene from Jon Pertwee, being given the better lines as he’s the villain, but Pertwee’s performance puts up a good fight. It all turns sour, though, as Kronos returns. As he began to emerge this time, I loved it, it looked convincing and menacing. But then! Director Paul Bernard decides to go over the top, drawing out his cliffhangers and using poor editing once again to show the man-in-a-costume for far too long. The writing was drawn out a bit as well and I’m not sure why the Master’s laugh suddenly decided to echo.

Stuart and Ruth had more to do here as well, Stuart tries to get a backbone and Ruth decides to try and force her feminism onto us again. What a tiresome pair these are, although they’ve gotten much better since their initial episode, although it’s probably because Sergeant Benton’s there to carry some of the scene for them.

I think it’s a given in fan circles that the new TARDIS interior designed for this episode is disgusting and the least liked amongst everyone, showing the Doctor and the Master have equal taste as now they coincidentally decided on the same ‘desktop theme’ for the same adventure. I bet that’s embarrassing! The story itself has got a lot better and the episode cliffhanger was fantastic, although as I said, overlong. It actually puts both our main characters into a different ‘what the heck’s gonna happen next?’ scenario making me genuinely want to start the next episode to see poor Jo going round and round on the Master’s TARDIS monitor.

That hideous Tardis interior

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Time Monster (Episode 3)

Originally Broadcast 3rd June 1972
 Written by: Robert Sloman

In a nutshell: The Master, failing to gain control of Kronos, decides he must travel to Atlantis.

Review: This episode is a large step up from the previous instalments, yet it still falls short of being anything close to brilliant. Personally I think one of the problems is the translation from the script to screen, with director Paul Bernard failing to see what Letts and Sloman co-wrote into their adventure. One big failure on this is the appearance of Kronos, which Letts himself has expressed disgust with. For such a powerful being, it doesn’t half look like a man in a crap white suit dangling on Kirby wires. This was just one poor element in the flat direction.

Donald Eccles’ Krasis has been poorly realised as well, although I think this problem is part in the script and part in the direction. Baring in mind the performance Eccles gives, I think he should’ve been written as a seemingly knowledgeable man but is, in actual fact, not too clever. Instead he turns out pantomime and laughable but not for the right reasons.

The Brig is given some awful lines here, Courtney somehow makes the character good, but with those stereotypically drawn out lines even the best of actors struggle. The cliffhanger to this episode would have been one of the best and most shocking in the shows history if not for dragged out dialogue from the Brig trying to holler Yates on the radio.

I’d best find something good, so I’ll say I’m enjoying the Master’s plan at the moment and the fact he’s failed without the Doctor’s interference, therefore having to travel to Atlantis (probably in part four) to gain control of Kronos. But I even find fault with this. If he can pull out planes and knights using the crystal of Kronos surely he doesn’t really need to go to Atlantis for more power and control. Can’t he just survive on what he’s got, as nobody has more power than that?

Pertwee was ok in this episode but I found myself playing ‘guess what line they’ll give him next’ as his dialogue is that predictable in fitting with his other appearances as the third Doctor. Like the previous parts, Pertwee does stuff in his generic Doctor-persona but it’s all stuff we’ve seen and/or heard before in the last two years he’s owned the part. At least he gets to make some random time thingy out of bits of crap in Stuart’s flat. Maybe that’s why he owned that junkyard back in ’63, so he could make his own naff little time experiments whilst Susan went to Coal Hill?

To sum up, this episode stands above the last, yet it’s full of horrendous dialogue, flat direction and hammy-acting from some guest stars.

The Doctor's household sci-fi mcguffin

Monday, 20 June 2011

The Time Monster (Part 2)

Originally Broadcast 27th May 1972
Written by: Robert Sloman

In a nutshell: The Doctor slowly discovers more of the Master’s latest evil plan, something involving Kronos and control of all time itself.

Review: I’m going to start off with a brief mention of the scenes in Atlantis as they don’t appear too often and they’ve stuck in my mind for all the wrong reasons. First off the camera looks different, there’s a certain ‘glare’ given to these shots and the costumes look disastrous. There’s also a small matter of the dialogue being Saturday-morning cartoon villainy, something that only Roger Delgado can pull off yet he’s not the one having to deliver them right now.

Instead Delgado is fed pretty much everything he did in ‘The Sea Devils’ except this time he isn’t behind bars. He’s even hypnotised an important official who appears stupid and spends the episodes following him around like a lost sheep. I love seeing the Master give a ‘you will obey me’ speech but twice in two episodes on the same guy is getting tedious. Maybe we should have a drinking game of recurring writing. Or good actors being giving nothing to do.

No drinking games for Nick Courtney’s performance, who’s fabulous as the Brig, as well as John Levene’s Benton shining through toward the end of the episode. Regarding the rest of the regular cast, little is given to many of them and when it is, in the case of Jon Pertwee’s third Doctor, there’s nothing stunning or different for the cast to sink their teeth into. I don’t even remember what Jo did in this episode she was that memorable. Come to think of it, I don’t recall much of the Doctor either.

On the bright side Ruth hasn’t done as much in this episode as in the previous and now Stuart’s an old man so he can’t do anything bar let Jo look after him with a shout out for Kronos once in a while. I’m only two episodes in, but this story had better perk itself up soon otherwise I’ll have nothing nice to say!

The brilliant Delgado with the less-than-brilliant Wanda Moore

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Mad And Bad: 60 Years Of Science On TV

Narrated by: Robert Webb

Broadcast: 15th December 2010 (BBC4)

Running time: 89 minutes

In a nutshell: Robert Webb narrates this documentary looking at science (fiction and non-fiction) on British television (primarily the BBC), with a piece on each decade from the 1950s through to the 2000s.

Review: I’m going to start off by saying this isn’t really a Doctor Who piece, the show only gets two mentions through the show, grabbing less than ten minutes of screen time in total. Instead what this documentary gives is a gripping display of how science has changed on our screens and the advances it’s been given through the likes of technology and presentation. This does lead to a small problem in that it doesn’t really label a lot of the faults of today’s television, possibly because we can’t see any without the benefit of hindsight, however that isn’t stated.

When there is a downfall of the shows, such as the ‘boring lecture’ style of the 1950s, Robert Webb gives some sarcastic narration, thinking that’ll hopefully keep the audience happy. Webb’s narration is my big problem with this show, as I don’t really connect him with science or science fiction, he’s just gained the job of being BBC3 and 4’s latest poster boy for cheap narration or poor jokes (in the form of TV and Movie Mistakes programmes).

Various leading artists in the field are interviewed including David Attenborough and Robert Winston, but when it comes down to fiction, we have to rely on Kim Newman who irritates the hell out of me! He tries to make it known so desperately how much he loves science fiction as well as the director deciding to give us an extreme close up of his greying moustache as he watches the television shows that we want to see rather than his ‘enjoyable’ face.

Apart from not much time being giving to the latter decades, this documentary is actually really good and makes you want to go out and watch the most surprising of things, such as ‘Horizon’ or ‘Tomorrow’s World’, which were the best parts of this show. There’s a great focus on ‘The Sky At Night’ as well, with Patrick Moore being interviewed about his involvement. Overall, even if you don’t enjoy science (just science fiction) this is incredibly interesting to watch and even teaches you a thing or two, even citing ‘famous’ shows you may not have heard of, such as the open university giving lectures on BBC2. This is a brilliant account of how science has developed, telling interesting developments and a really great (although passed over) comparison between 1960s American sci-fi and British sci-fi. Definitely worth a watch, just don’t look out for loads of Who related snippets!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Time Monster (Episode 1)

Originally Broadcast 20th May 1972
Written by: Robert Sloman

In a nutshell: Suffering from a precognitive dream, the Doctor learns of the Master’s new threat, something to do with a time experiment and the ancient city of Atlantis.

Review: We start off with a huge explosion courtesy of the BBC’s stock library; it’s all very exciting before turning out to be a Pertwee nightmare. The Master was in it though, which is brilliantly new, making the audience aware Delgado is in it from the start rather than telling us there’s an examiner who reveals himself in episode four as a ‘shock’. The Doctor and Jo get some really nice ‘married couple’ styled arguing as Pertwee thinks his dream was a warning from the future.

Delgado’s back already (with more grey hair than I recall and a sexist approach to business), throwing his charm and elegance across the screen instantly. We’re switching to and fro stories here, with Jo being rather inept (as usual) by not figuring the relevance of telling the Doctor about Atlantis sooner. The episode seems to be moving at a much brisker pace than the norm for the Pertwee era, we already know it’s something to do with the Master, Atlantis and some strange crystal and it’s only five minutes in! Jumping away from this, the Brigadier is here! And Courtney is acting fantastically; this is one of his finest performances so far, especially when he’s trying to get someone to accompany him to the TOMTIT demonstration.

Now Delgado finally gets his standard yet mesmerising performance as he hypnotises for the first time this serial. Despite him doing this in pretty much every story, Delgado somehow makes it feel fresh and gripping each time. I’m really not keen on Sloman (and uncredited Letts) writing for the two amateur scientists. Stuart is just irritating and full of crap lines whereas Ruth’s feminist approach is forced on the audience so hard even Germaine Greer would shy away.

The Doctor has created a time-sensor that’s has the most phallic look about it possible, but at least Jo gets a moment to shine and this is a touching paternalistic scene between the Doctor and Jo. The time-sensor gets terribly worse as Jo holds it out in front of her; I’m trying not to notice. This is inter-cut with the two scientists starting an experiment with some poor dialogue and irritating acting as Ruth reads out numbers in a monotone voice.

The time sniffer-outter (and possibly something else)
This episode started out fantastic but it’s slowly falling into annoyance and some stereotypical plotting. A window-cleaner just happens to choose a window on the second floor to clean first, which just happens to be the one the experiment is occurring in. And just when that appears bad, the most cringe-worthy scene in Doctor Who is played as Ruth and Stuart dance around singing “We’ve done it”. At least Delgado’s returned to sort it out, but it appears even he’s falling flat when dealing with Ruth. I hope she gets killed off before the sixth episode, preferably taking Stuart with her.

Apart from the initial precognitive dream, this episode is flatly directed by Paul Bernard and the script is getting a tad better as I watch the Master’s reaction to UNIT arriving at the scene of TOMTIT.  Even Courtney’s Brigadier is getting naff lines now, I feel sorry for the late Nicolas Courtney here, he got such great material at the start of the episode.

Diverging from the events of TOMIT, the Doctor’s dildo has sprung into life as he discovers the Master is behind the 2pm operation. Cue unneeded static shot of a clock showing us the time is 1:45pm. The operation is about to begin, after some great interaction between two high-up boffins but now Ruth is trying to explain science to the Brig. I love how Sergeant Benton understands the experiment, having to explain it to Lethbridge-Stewart.

The episodes picking up as Bessie races toward the location of the experiment, which has returned to giving monotone voices for everything. The music hideously ruins the cliffhanger which feels a bit forced from Delgado here, chanting “Come Kronos, come!” but lets hope episode two picks up from the dull climax of episode one.

Friday, 17 June 2011

TARDISbound: Navigating The Universes Of Doctor Who

Written by: Piers D. Britton

Published in: 2011 by I. B. Tauris

In a nutshell: A book compiling several essays (by the same author) displaying Doctor Who’s narratives through a combined tour of television, audio and text.

Review: This book has both its highs and lows, although sadly it’s the lows I shall be focusing on mainly here as they over compass the good times. Britton is clearly a fan of the show (plus the associated media) but somehow manages to get so many facts wrong (especially dates). At one point he refers to ‘Remembrance Of The Daleks’ as being screened in 1989 before correcting himself on the very next page, citing the episode again, this time as the correct 1988. In his introduction he sees fit to inform the reader how the ‘wilderness years’ between the shows cancellation in 1989 and the revival in 2005 (barring the 1996 Paul McGann movie) is often wrongly referred to as a hiatus as it was never a hiatus. But then once you get a little further into the book, he calls this gap an hiatus himself! Other poor moments rise through trivial matters (although important to fans!) like ‘The War Games’ appearing “four years” into the shows history when we all know it was screened in 1969, with the show beginning in ’63.

Britton also tries to outlay in his introduction how this book is written by a fan and isn’t heavy it’s referencing although there is over 250 references in a 220 page book. He can get very heavy on things at times such as ethical matters and aesthetic matters although once he gets past all this, there are some really good points. There’s a great case study near the back of the book on 2010’s ‘The Beast Below’ as well as a glance at 2006’s ‘The Runaway Bride’ (whilst he’s meant to be case-studying something else) although there isn’t enough really good focus points like this. Don’t get me wrong, he certainly has his good points and raises some great debate topics, but there isn’t need for some of the comments he makes, such as ‘Last Of The Time Lords’ (2007) being a homosexual match between the Doctor and Master, going as far as informing us every time the Master uses his laser screwdriver on the Doctor its meant to be metaphorical for having sex with him. Who really wanted that image every time they see John Simm and David Tennant on their TV screen?

Where Britton really does excel his when he mentions the audio and PDA/EDA (Past/Eighth Doctor Adventures) as they are more niche and not so many people have written critical essays looking at them. We all know about the television show, so it’s nice to see these in-depth looks, although he undertakes far too much for one small book. The audios and text don’t get enough recognition (certainly not as much as he claims on the back cover) and even then he usually sticks to the same few and spoils quite a few endings.

In the final chapters he decides to argue in twenty pages ‘Is Doctor Who good?’ and ‘What good is Doctor Who?’ both of which I don’t really care about as I know my own opinion and, secondly, how can you decide that based on two or three peoples critical approach and by summing up a fifty year old show in three categories?

Personally I wouldn’t read this book again, but I think it’s good to read once if (like me) you don’t have a huge knowledge of the 1990s novels or the early Big Finish audios, but otherwise there isn’t a lot of detail that you won’t already know. Plus you wouldn’t have to go through “I’ll discuss (A, B and C) in my next chapter” mixed with “I discussed (X, Y and Z) in chapter one, a technique that really gets old before you’ve made your way into the first essay!

Four To Doomsday (Part 4)

Originally Broadcast 26th January 1982
Written by: Terence Dudley

In a nutshell: The Doctor must escape from Monarch’s trap and convince his companions to side with him to save the Earth.

Review: Looking at the four-part serial as a whole, there’s a lot of padding (especially with the dancers in this episode) but it has a great story, a lot of which happens in this part. The Doctor gets some fantastic scenes with Monarch, Dudley writes some great dialogue for the pair early on in this episode. What doesn’t work as well is ‘Monarch on a rampage’ as he tries to stop the Doctor. He marches to the TARDIS, ready to confront the Doctor and Tegan (who run away), only to return to his seat before rising again to make a move to the TARDIS. What is he on about?

Tegan is pretty pointless for the majority of this episode, being sidelined as she’s stuck in space in the TARDIS, although her presence isn’t really missed, as there’s a fair bit to do before we meet her again. One of these things to do is get the Doctor to the TARDIS with the use of clever CSO (the Doctor on an office wheely-chair), this shot is really convincing and looks brilliant thirty years on from it’s initial broadcast.

A brilliant CSO shot of Davison on an office chair!

I was wrong in my guess about the cliffhanger from episode three, although I think my ideas was better than what actually occurred, which looked pants. Nyssa jumps into action from nowhere and has time to put a pencil and sonic to two androids hands before they have a chance to stop her. Whilst on this topic, Adric had time to carefully place the gun he’d taken off Enlightenment on the floor before returning to his ‘fight’ with her.

The way in which Monarch was defeated was great, the Doctor taken a rash decision to shrink him down here, which looked brilliant! The Doctor’s been quite ruthless and mean toward his companions in this episode, especially in comparison to the previous three (where he shouted but wasn’t to this extent). I’m starting to wonder if Davison was trying to give a dark side to his Doctor at this early stage into his career as the fifth Doctor.

A lot of cheesy laughing from our different race-leaders now and then there’s just time for a final shock as Nyssa collapses to the ground! In the most poorly edited sequence of the episode. The whole thing happened so fast the credits were onto Adric before you could take it in. This served as impact=lost for me, I’m afraid.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Four To Doomsday (Part 3)

Originally Broadcast 25th January 1982
Written by: Terence Dudley

In a nutshell: The Doctor, with the help of Bigon, starts to learn more about his ‘hosts’, the evil Urbankans. But as his companions turn against him, will the Doctor be too late to save Earth?

Review: A hundred times better than part one or two in terms of plot, ‘Four To Doomsday 3’ really steps up a level with the terms of threat and who these Urbankans are. Still, there are some boring points such as Monarch having to turn to Enlightenment every two sentences to discover the meaning of a word. This works sometimes when it’s something such as the meaning of ‘love’ but it happens too often to carry anything of importance here. The same goes for the message of the ‘state of our world’ that Monarch can change, the writing forces it into the audience, telling them “Our world is a mess, this is why, do something about it” rather than hinting at the ‘wrong’ ways in which we lead our lives. This scene between Monarch and Nyssa/Adric would work so much better if we swapped one of them for Tegan, who actually knows about modern-day Earth so she could argue a solid case.

But no, Tegan is off doing nothing this episode, just throwing hissy fits of bad acting, especially at the end of the episode when she’s desperately trying to fly the TARDIS. Although, I loved her argument with the Doctor about having to go and warn Earth, this was a brilliant plot stand which would later see effect in 2008’s ‘The Fires Of Pompeii’ swapping Tegan for Donna.

The Doctor is given some good material here too, especially a scene where he acts quite alien, as he’s interested more in Bigon’s mechanics than the threat to the planet for a second or two, reminding us how he isn’t human,

Setting up for a downfall
But above and beyond worst acting and scripting in this episode goes to Matthew Waterhouse’s Adric. It’s not really Waterhouse’s fault though, as I just don’t understand the character motivation for siding with Monarch. There was a small moment at one point in the episode where I thought, “Yeah, OK, I can see why Adric would want that to happen” but after (and before) that moment I just thought “What a twat”. He doesn’t get many, but this episode is definitely not one of Adric’s golden moments.

The cliffhanger was pretty good, although I can already see the ‘get out’ by the directing and Waterhouse’s acting (but maybe I’m wrong!) as Adric raises a leg, appearing to prepare to kick the sword away from the Doctor’s neck. This ending can’t help but remind me of an episode of ‘The Visitation’, although as this serial appeared first, I suppose I should stop thinking of ‘Four To Doomsday’ as the copier and more the copied.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Talkback: The Sixties (The Unofficial And Unauthorised Doctor Who Interview Book)

Edited by: Stephen James Walker

Published by: Telos Publishing, 2006

In a nutshell: Gathering the best (and in most cases the only) interviews from unlikely ‘behind the scenes’ people from fan magazines, this book showcases around twenty different peoples thoughts and memories between 1963-1969 of Doctor Who.

Review: This is, quite possibly, the best Doctor Who book I’ve ever read and I’m not trying to exaggerate! The 1960s is my favourite era of the show and this book really appreciates that, you can tell Stephen James Walker (SJW) has crafted this book out of love and really cares for the show. He’s compiled a set of unrelated interviews (the majority of which are carried out by himself) by people associated with the show whom you’ve never read an interview with (most of the time)! He talks to (amongst others) Bill Strutton, Brian Hayles, John Lucarotti, Derek Martinus as well as including a letter written by William Hartnell himself!

Obviously some sections have to be better than others (I was a bit let down by the Terence Dicks interview) but I think every one is good for some reason. I’ll have to make this review a very short one, as I don’t really have anything to add other than how good this is. It’s brilliant to read the only (known) interview with Bill Strutton, as personally I hate (his only story) ‘The Web Planet’ but reading this gives you a much greater appreciation for it. There are contradictions between people who don’t remember things correctly or argue over certain things but that all adds to the excitement of reading this.

Once I began reading I literally couldn’t put this down, I had to have it prised from my hands after I’d read three quarters of it, wanting to savour some of it for a later date. This book is very highly recommended for people who love Doctor Who, particularly the 1960s, but I wouldn’t recommend it for people who have just found their way into the universe and aren’t too ‘well-up’ on their early Who, as it’s definitely specialist material and it’s so much better to read if you’ve seen the stories discussed, so you can agree, criticise or just enjoy reading peoples (usually) fond memories of the show itself.

I have two criticisms of the book myself, the first is that it only come sin at just under 200 pages and the other is that it informed me Sydney Newman was writing his memoirs before he passed away, sadly they were never finished. I would’ve loved to read that book!

Four To Doomsday (Part 2)

Originally Broadcast 19th January 1982
Written by: Terence Dudley

In a nutshell: Whilst aboard the Urbanken ship, the Doctor is being closely watched by his hosts as the TARDIS team are split up and examined.

Review: I’m at odds with this serial so far; I’m enjoying it yet nothing happens for the time it’s taken to get nowhere. I’m now fifty minutes in and I can sum up the story so far in one line.

‘Aboard a spaceship, powerful froglike aliens have created an army of robot-humans as they travel back to Earth’.

The Doctor and Tegan become a team in this episode, becoming split up from Adric and Nyssa who are left to do bugger all except wonder around a ship saying “What’s that?” except for that one pansy push a robot gave Nyssa, that was quite fun mainly due to Adric’s reaction.
I’ve found myself really liking the Doctor/Tegan duo, maybe the creative team should’ve thought about dumping the other two into an escape hatch or something as when it’s just the two it’s nice, yet when all four are together it’s crowded and nobody gets enough screen time to be liked.

Stratford Jones as Monarch is brilliant, he’s not got anything spectacular or new to work with but I’ve really enjoyed the performance so far, as I have with Phillip Locke’s Bigon. I’m surprised the Doctor hasn’t jumped in with a ‘Bigon’s be Bigons’ joke yet, but there’s still two episodes to go. I’ll look out for that later.

The brilliant Stratford Jones
Back to Tegan and the Doc for a mo, as in one of the early scenes of this episode (before the team get separated) there’s a brilliant moment of, I assume, serendipity. Fielding begins her line and Davison’s Doctor interrupts, seemingly by accident yet due to editing or time reasons it never got cut out and works marvellously. It appears to not be part of the script and I hope it isn’t!

This is another Who story that gets a fantastic cliffhanger which is spoilt by effects and over-shooting the event. Bigon opens up his chest to reveal he is, in fact, an android and the design work for this looks brilliantly realistic, but then they have to overdo it by having a pathetically poor shot of him lifting his face up and down and pulling out some circuitry from his chest. All this takes away from the fact he’s not a living being and ruined what should’ve been one of the best ‘shock’ moments of the series.

On a final (and quick) note, what’s with all the padded dancing and badly choreographed fight scenes? That’s where Terence Dudley’s plots gone…on padding!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Four To Doomsday (Part 1)

Originally Broadcast 18th January 1982
Written by: Terence Dudley

In a nutshell: The Doctor and co. arrives onboard a spaceship where they encounter a strange race called the Urbankans as well as four passengers, each from a different era of Earth’s history.

Review: I think it’s possible to skip the first ten minutes of this episode and you’d be in exactly the same place. Nothing at all happens! The first ten minutes details Tegan wanting to get home, the Doctor failing before landing on a spaceship and literally walking around it for ages. To be honest, the start of this could describe any other Peter Davison story, although I have to remember this is the first time this has happened to the fifth Doctor (being only his second adventure), so maybe I can cut the writer and script editor a break (until I review ‘The Visitation’ alongside another fifteen adventures staring this Doctor!).

I’m quite keen on the design of the monsters here, they don’t look like the worst in Who’s long history, in fact they look better than a lot of other alien races I’ve seen, particularly considering the budget of the 1980s. I also found myself liking how the interaction between them and the Doctor was handled, with the Doctor clearly loosing the battle of authority by the end of the scene.

I don’t know what’s going on with Tegan here either. Yes she’s Australian, yes she’s an airhostess, but how the heck can she draw that good and be fluent in ancient aborigine. Fair enough at a stretch it’s an Australian aborigine but I’d hazard a guess saying that doesn’t mean it’s like a second language to them, surely?
Adric is being annoying and childish throughout the episode (when’s Earthshock again?) and he shares some wooden acting with Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa who’s not that good in this episode either, to be honest. And then again neither is Janet Fielding’s Tegan! All I can guess at is it’s down to having three companions although I never had a problem liking the Ian/Barbara/Susan team or the Ben/Polly/Jamie team for example.

A childish Adric with an artistic air-hostess Tegan
The plot for this episode (well, the last ten minutes where there is a plot) hasn’t done anything for me yet as I know absolutely nothing! Ok, we’re on a ship, there’s some green aliens and some humans from different eras, but it all feels too slow. Surely I could learn more than three little things in a twenty-five minute episode? There are some great effects and models work in this episode, I have to say, sticking up for it. The circular cameras are a great effect and feel really fresh and new for the time this Who is set in, it feels a mile away from what the show was like just one or two series ago as Tom Baker neared his end.

Ah well, hopefully I’ll get some plot as I play episode two!