Friday, 31 May 2013

Who's Round & The King's Demons

Hello faithful readers!

I hope you're all enjoying my latest reviews, nothing beats reviewing a brand new old Doctor Who. Over the weekend I'll be bringing you the conclusion to Galaxy Four as well as an old review I have for The King's Demons, which is less review and more angry rant I fear. I'm hoping to be able to review a lovely new colour restoration of The Mind Of Evil beginning on Monday but I'm fearful of my DVD arriving late from Amazon so we'll see if I get lucky.

I also want to mention Toby Hadoke's Who's Round. Has anyone been listening to these? They're all available on the Big Finish website for free (in the podcasts section). Toby has taken on the task of getting a first hand anecdote for each and every Doctor Who story and he only has the 50th anniversary year to do it in! There are some great stories amongst these 20 (and counting) installments from some huge names in the industry and some not so big, but they all played their part in Doctor Who's long history. Check them out, you won't regret it!

Galaxy Four 3: Air Lock

Originally broadcast 25th September 1965

 Written by: William Emms

In a nutshell: The Doctor and Vicki learn more about the Chumbleys and their mysterious masters, the Rills, as Steven tries to escape the evil Drahvins.

Review: There’s something extra special about this episode, in the same manner as The Underwater Menace 2. As soon as the opening titles begin I’m instantly more pulled in and excited because the episode is there. It exists, it’s real. It already has a bonus on the last 25-minute instalment of poor writing. In fact, this episode is actually pretty good, although, as I say, it could be the biased “it’s new” feeling in me.

The first thing that surprised me was just how sprightly Billy Hartnell is in this episode. We’re about two-thirds of the way through the first Doctor’s tenure and it wouldn’t be long before reports of his declining health kicked in, so it’s brilliant to get a surviving episode where he’s really on top form without having to feint or palm off lines onto other actors. Granted, we have The Gunfighters and some of The War Machines he shows his strengths in, but this somehow feels more special, as the latter stories in the series are over swamped with tales of his unbearable attitude on set.

The Rills are pretty well done as well and it’s a clever move that we don’t get to see too much of these enigmatic creatures although the voice isn’t the greatest we’ve ever had for an alien race. They are here to give us and the TARDIS crew a big info-dump about the plot and menace of the Drahvins though, which gets a little tiresome but they give us what, I think, is the first ever Doctor Who flashback. Now, I’m not certain here and I haven’t looked into it, but were we aware the scene of Maaga killing one of her own was a flashback before the episode was discovered in 2011? It’d be a great and fascinating discovery if we didn’t.

At last, a Rill!
 I think it’s impossible to talk about the episode further without sounding nasty toward it, which is a shame, as I did really enjoy all the scenes with the Doctor, Vicki, the Chumbleys and the Rills. If we look at the other parts of the episodes, basically anything with Steven or the wooden Drahvins, it falls apart. They are merely there to fill time and make sure we don’t forget they’re still going to be a part of the story next week. Purves could have just gone on holiday for a week and the script would be stronger without having to flip to Steven’s part of the story, but Peter Purves does wrestle well with what little he’s given to work with and shows he’s a strong actor with terrible material.

I can’t say I’m excited to be going into the final part of this story, but it isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be, it just needed a stronger sub-plot whilst we’re being fed the back story. This third part is definitely a strong episode for the most part, with episode one and it’s a story I think the Who team can be proud of, it’s just bog-standard though, not being a classic and not being a nightmare.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Galaxy Four 2: Trap Of Steel

Originally Broadcast 18th September 1965
Written by: William Emms

In a nutshell: Steven is captured by the Drahvins whilst the Doctor and Vicki bargain for his life by going in search of the Rills.

NB. As this episode is missing from the BBC archives, this review is based upon the surviving audio book narrated by Peter Purves. Telesnaps do not exist for this serial.

Review: Episode 2 of Galaxy Four is pretty much the opposite of the opening instalment, which had some fun character interaction, funny lines, a strong cliffhanger and a plot that moved at a bearable pace. Peter Purves doesn’t have anything to do apart from put his foot in it and then get shoved into a holding cell where once in a while the writer remembers about him and adds in a scene where he embarrassingly stumbled through some dialogue about trying to escape. I do feel sorry for Purves, who hates his character in this story, but I think he misses the point of Steven jumping into prison in Vicki’s place. It’s a bold move for feminism, I suppose, and does make a change to have the male imprisoned instead of the female companion.

Speaking of feminism, it’s hard to talk about Galaxy Four without mentioning producer Verity Lambert’s decision to turn the male Drahvins (as scripted) into females to bring a bit of spark to the episode. It does work, as the story would be even more simple, tedious and done-to-death than it is.

Steven Taylor: Being badly written for since September 1965
Meanwhile, as Stevens having all the excitement, the Doctor and Vicki seem to be sightseeing their way along the planet’s surface as they await the Chumbleys to pick them up, which isn’t going to happen for fifteen minutes because we need to make that the climax of the episode, which is the worst thing in the history of Doctor Who. Because the episode is missing, we have Vicki laughing at the cuteness of a chumbley before, out of nowhere, she screams violently as the credits roll. What did she scream at? No idea. Where’s the audio explanation of what she screams at? No idea. What did this cliffhanger achieve other than hurting my ears? No idea.

There isn’t a lot to say about Trap Of Steel, the episode fails to interest me at any point of it’s twenty-three minute life, instead it makes me pray to whoever is up there that the next episode is brilliant, as it’s the newly discovered part of the serial. I don’t want the only new William Hartnell episode since 2004 to be rubbish. Please, it’ can’t be, can it?

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Galaxy Four 1: Four Hundred Dawns

Originally Broadcast 11th September 1965

Written by: William Emms

In a nutshell: Hoping to relax for once, the Doctor, Steven and Vicki arrive on what they think is a deserted planet, where they find two races at war.

NB. As this episode is missing from the BBC archives, this review is based upon the surviving audio book narrated by Peter Purves. Telesnaps do not exist for this serial.

Review: I really enjoy when episodes open up with our characters caught up in everyday life or having adventures we don’t know about where they bond more. This episode opens with Vicki cutting Steven’s hair, creating a closer friendship between them. A lot of the time this sort of action is lacking from our characters, but the actors give the impression they’re on the best of terms on and off screen.

When Steven says to the Doctor “Do you think it wants us to go somewhere” after the Chumbley nudges into him, it reminds me of the Tennant joke “that means move in any language” from Planet Of The Dead. There are a few funny moments in this episode and they all spark from the TARDIS crew. Hartnell’s Doctor with Steven and Vicki are, I think, one of the most underrated TARDIS teams in the shows history and Peter Purves’ Steven one of the most underappreciated and thankless people from the classic era of Who, most likely spawned by the fact most of his episodes are wiped from the archives.

The Drahvins meet the Chumbleys in this lost episode
Purves’ is also quite funny near the end of the episode when he starts having to “yes, Doctor” through the script, he acts like he’s fed up of saying it and is only doing it to humour the Doctor, fully aware of what he’s doing. It works well and provides something new and interesting to the undynamic script.

When looking at the very unconvincing Chumbleys, you really have to admire the believability the actors have to put into this show at times, they really do their best to create panic and danger, sometimes succeeding as well, but the ‘monsters’ in this serial just don’t live up to the expectations of children.

The plot here doesn’t go very far at all, really, in fact, it’s very basic. The smartest part of the plot is the cliffhanger, which I have to admit is one of my favourite ever. Hartnell’s delivery is dramatic and shocking and the impact of the destruction of the planet is out of the blue and bloody brilliant. It more than makes up for the fairly standard plot up to that point and instantly makes me want to tune into episode 2, which, sadly, has to wait until tomorrow…

It's all gone Dalek! DWM #461 and 50th Bookazine #1 The Daleks

 Today I struck lucky! Not only did I finally get my hands on the first of Panini's 'Bookazines' devoted to 50 years of Doctor Who but I also found this months DWM a day early.

I was wary of buying 'The Daleks' due to the hefty £9.99 price tag, but as soon as you lay eyes on it you can spot where the money is. It looks and feels like a big ol' collectable book that is definitive. It features a bit on every TV Dalek story, the movies, the (new series) books, Big Finish audios, all the Dalek toys as well as reprinting some of the 1960s Dalek comic strips and if that wasn't enough it even has interviews with some key people from the shows history who have helped the metal meanies become as iconic as they are.

Meanwhile, DWM #461 carries all the usual brilliant features as well as the final part of the 50th anniversary comic strip 'Hunters Of The Burning Stone' which I've been loving! The Fact of Fiction is on the almost-missing Galaxy Four whilst the big attraction is a series of features on the two Peter Cushing Dalek movies and an interview with Neil Gaiman who talks about 'Nightmare In Silver'. There's also a great joke in What A Load Of Ruebish and the rest of series 7 is reviewed.

Doctor Who 50 Years: The Daleks is out now, priced £9.99. Doctor Who Magazine #461 goes on sale tomorrow at £4.75.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Review: Queers Dig Time Lords

Edited by: Sigrid Ellis and Michael Damian Thomas
With an introduction by: John & Carole E. Barrowman.

Published by: Mad Norwegian Press.

Queers Dig Time Lords is the latest anthology of essays from the brains behind the Hugo award-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords and should be another winner. Focusing on the different viewpoints, reactions and personal histories of (mostly LGBTQ) people who have been affected and inspired by Doctor Who, it tells us how to be better people and, essentially, love who we are for what we are.

There are some brilliantly funny titles ranging from Gary Russell’s PVC Made Me Gay to Mary Anne Mohanraj & Jed Hartman’s Seven Ways Of Looking At Captain Jack although the reliance on Captain Jack in the book are far too heavy, with multiple chapters devoted to him. I understand he’s a major character but he stole the limelight from some of the other issues. You need look no further than the strong essays by Racheline Maltese and Martin Warren to discover everything you ever needed to know about how culturally important he is.

The beginning of the book is a bit weaker with too many footnotes, one even being a mere link to wikipedia to tell us who Beau Brummell is, which started feeling like a chatty essay with a Daleks Master Plan-sized pile of afterthoughts. Some of the chapters go a little too far for my tastes as well, such as imagining River with a whip, although maybe some people like that?

There are almost thirty essays here and far too many to mention in one review but there’s also so many I’m impressed by. Naamen Gobert Tilahun should be forced to write a piece defending every single underappreciated character in the history of Doctor Who whilst Hal Duncan disastrously gains our hate by calling the Daleks ‘Pepperpots’ before going on to tell his story in the brilliant yet somehow not obvious form of starting at the end and raises some brilliant comparisons between the Doctor and the Prisoner (although to stop fans committing suicide he should NEVER be put in charge of the show)!

Meanwhile I’ll never look at The Stones Of Blood again without spotting all the smart lesbianism thanks to Julia Rios and Cody Quinjano-Schell even watches those disliked stories like The Mutants and Delta And The Bannermen to find LGBTQ issues to raise, even going so far as spotting something in The Pirate Planet, he just keeps on adding layers to these stories that add to GayWho!

The above are just a few of the essays I’ve touched on which are written by some insanely clever and talented writers and that’s before I’ve even got to the always-brilliant former DWM-editor Gary Russell (and his love for Peter Vaughn-Clarke) who, scarily for him, looks at the world in the same way I do!

But the real show-stealer of this book comes surprisingly early on with Emily Asher-Perrin’s beautiful and tearful Time, Space, Love. This is the best personal journey of the programme I’ve ever read and it’s brilliant. I’m jealous of the life her and her girlfriend led, relating to Rose and Tennant’s Doctor in a way nobody else can. It strikes up images of a life led to the full, where you can have the happiest of times. It’s heart-warming and heartbreaking and just beautifully told. The book is worth buying just for these ten pages.

Like Asher-Perrins, the essays which are written about the author’s personal live are the most inviting and relatable to read, however the show is also put in it’s historical and factual context which really leaves an impact and hits home how lucky we are and how far and open sexuality has moved on, both in Doctor Who and the wider world.

Ultimately this isn't a book about Doctor who, it's a book about people who are different who strive to be the person they want to become, to become free within themselves. It just so happens they've all been touched by one programme which has given them the power to embrace who they really are and THAT is why Queers Dig Time Lords.

Oh and there’s also a list of the sexiest men in Doctor Who (and yes, it does feature Michael Craze)! If that isn’t reason enough to buy this book I don’t know what is…

Queers Dig Time Lords is released on 4th June by Mad Norwegian Books

The Underwater Menace (episode 4)

Originally Broadcast 4th February 1967

Written by: Geoffrey Orme

In a nutshell: The Doctor takes drastic actions to stop the insane Professor Zaroff.

NB. As this episode is missing from the BBC archives, this review is based upon the surviving audio book narrated by Anneke Wills and the BBC website’s photo-novel reconstruction.

Review: The final part of this story is a big disappointment for one reason: the visuals. Having nothing to watch for this episode doesn’t do it any favours, as this part has a lot of rushing water, flooding and running away. We need to see these things to get a sense of the impending drama but instead we just get the unconvincing sound of rushing water. The only real visual part of this episode we do have is scarily atmospheric, however, as we witness the final fate of Zaroff in a brilliant three-second long clip.

There are some fun lines of dialogue here, more than likely inserted in by Troughton, such as not being asked for a password and not looking “exactly normal”. I can just picture Pat T pulling his face at being called that. The TARDIS team have also settled in and accepted new companion Jamie McCrimmon although the team are cringingly pally at the end of the serial, particularly when criticising the Doctor’s lack of TARDIS knowledge.

"Nothing In Ze World Can Stop Me Now! Except drowning and the wiping of episodes 1 and 4...
  Their big reunion after each thinking the others had died also feels a little underplayed, but other than that they’re all on fine form, albeit not being given anything really fun to get their teeth into this week. Last week we had them disguised as guards, chasing people, getting into fights. This week watch as they run away from water! A big step down in dramatic value.

It’s a shame the final episode isn’t too good, although it suits my theory that came about with the newly found episode 2. Maybe we just need those visuals so much in the Troughton serials to make the story a strong one. After all, it made episode 2 fantastic, so imagine how good this finale could be if only we could find that darn episode (and the other hundred)!

Tomorrow: We take a look at the other serial that's been partly replaced in the archives, William Hartnell in Galaxy Four!

The Underwater Menace (episode 3)

Originally Broadcast 28th January 1967

Written by: Geoffrey Orme
In a nutshell: The Doctor gives Zaroff the run-around as he decides he must be captured, before Zaroff feigns a faint and gives the Doctor and co. the run-around!

Review: The silliness of The Underwater Menace continues into this third instalment, with the Doctor and Ramo about to be decapitated when Polly becomes the voice of the Mighty Amdo to rescue them. It’s a bit silly and obvious, but in this story anything seems to work. Ramo’s disgust at being betrayed by this false God falls flat, though, as there wasn’t enough of a build up to the beliefs using Amdo (or the voice of Amdo) itself.

The big scene for this episode takes place around the market street, with the Doctor in disguise to try and lure Zaroff into a trap. Ben and Jamie arrive, dressed up as guards, with a great missed opportunity at showing how they came by their costumes. It feels like a fun little scenario that would fit well into this serial, in the same way we witness Indiana Jones punch out a guard to get a costume too small for him. And who else thinks Ben looks kinda sexy in his outfit?

Troughton is his latest guise. You didn't think I'd post a picture of Ben did you?
Part of this story which comes under heavy criticism is the appearance of the fish people. I do like the costumes, they’re not beautiful but they carry a decent and memorable appearance. The scenes of them floating/swimming are cleverly constructed by the production team but do feel a bit slow, the direction being fairly misjudged for the tea time audience.

Despite an amazingly choreographed action sequence, the embarrassing events build up for Zaroff as the story goes on. First off, he pulls the oldest trick in the book by staging a feint in order to escape the clutches of Ramo and Polly. Secondly, he decides to pull out a gun which is painfully obvious it’s a sound effect by the stiltedness of Furst’s gun-toting hand before his infamous declaration “Nothing in ze world can stop me now!”

Find out if anything can at the same blog tomorrow!

Monday, 27 May 2013

The Underwater Menace (episode 2)

Originally Broadcast 21st January 1967

Written by: Geoffrey Orme

In a nutshell: The Doctor discovers Professor Zaroff’s plans as Ben and Jamie try to escape work in the mines.

Review: For the first time in forever I’m actually watching a brand new Patrick Troughton adventure and it’s fantastic! I think the fact we have a new episode has, quite rightfully, become more important than how poorly thought of this serial is. I’m glad this episode has been discovered as it shows off how brilliantly silly the whole thing is. Pat Troughton pulls his face in all directions to make his Doctor comical, without taking it too far, he plays it just right.

The early scenes between Troughton and Joseph Furst’s Zaroff is one of the best two-hander scenes in Doctor Who, the dialogue just rolls out quickly, efficiently and dramatically, it really boosts the danger level for Zaroff’s master plan to destroy the Earth.

There are a few silly things, such as when the guards search (tickle) Sean and Jacko and, of course, Professor Zaroff’s pet octopus, which he points to when saying “I’m talking to my friend here”, where he was meant to indicate the Doctor. Some of the plot points are still feeling a bit far fetched as well and too comedic such as Ben and Jamie’s escape and the Doctor disguised as a guard actually working, but for the most part these are all forgivable in the face of things.

I'm still trying to work out why there's a wardrobe in a corridor on Atlantis...
Orme, (or, quite possibly, Gerry Davis or Pat Troughton) come up with some brilliant lines of dialogue in this episode, ranging from the deadly serious “You distrust Zaroff out of instinct, I distrust him because I know the truth” to the laughable and typical Troughton respone “That’s a good question…I wish I could think of a good answer”. In fact, the two things that make this episode so enjoyable is the easy to understand and exciting dialogue and Pat’s early performance as the second Doctor, making everything about acting look so effortless.

As much as I’d love Power Of The Daleks 1 to be rediscovered, The Underwater Menace 2 is surprisingly brilliant, showing just how important the visuals are to a story. It’s just a shame when you imagine how many of Troughton’s visual abilities have been lost within the other missing episodes. This story is certainly shaping up to be a brilliant and fun serial, with a huge lump of silliness dumped on top.

The Underwater Menace (Episode 1)

Originally Broadcast 14th January 1967

Written by: Geoffrey Orme

In a nutshell: The Doctor, along with Ben, Polly and the newly arrived Jamie, arrive on an extinct volcanic island where they are captured and put to sacrifice.

NB. As this episode is missing from the BBC archives, this review is based upon the surviving audio book narrated by Anneke Wills and the BBC website’s photo-novel reconstruction.

Review: Everyone likes to throw hate into the unloved The Underwater Menace, the only Doctor Who story to be scripted by Geoffrey Orme, but I’m giving you all one reason to love it: Patrick Troughton. Despite this being only his third serial, it’s surprising how easily he’s already making his performance seem. He’s got his stovepipe hat, he doesn’t know how to work the TARDIS and is making fun of the bad guys. All the reasons why he’s one of the best loved Doctors are all here in this opening episode.

The plot too, is OK and easy enough to follow, although there is a bit of clunky and boring explaining with some rocks that even Troughton, the man who makes anything interesting, struggles to get across to the kiddies at home. Later in the episode the Doctor also happens to work out the presence of Professor Zaroff with little clues, which just feels lazy on Orme’s part. It’s clearly only there to move the episode on with a bit of speed. Beyond that, there isn’t really much of a plotline to this part, it being a clich├ęd search-and-see upon landing the TARDIS before trouble and traps and holy sacrificing. It’s nothing special, really.

Troughton: Love that stovepipe!
This episode is also noteworthy for being the first regular story for Frazer Hines’ Jamie McCrimmon who would become a vital part of the Troughton era. And just incase we missed last weeks, we get an in-your-face reminder of Jamie’s place in time. It’s widely known Jamie was a last minute companion so his dialogue was mostly taken from Michael Craze’s Ben, but it isn’t the case here. I felt the two characters had a fair share of dialogue and even had some quite nice scenes together, although it was mostly because Jamie had to have the time travel explained to him, so perhaps the dialogue stealing will become more apparent as the story goes on. Only time will tell, it always does…

Tomorrow I’ll be bringing you a review of the recently discovered The Underwater Menace 2 which I’ve managed to get my hands on!

Hope to see you all there!

Doctor Who A Day: I'm Back!

Hello faithful bloggers and welcome to Doctor Who A Day. It’s been a mad year and a half where I’ve graduated at Scriptwriting, become a published author and watched loads and loads of Doctor Who!

What did everyone think of the new series? It didn’t quite live up to expectations but I’ll get around to showcasing my thoughts here in time. If you’re still here, the aim of my blog is to review every episode of Doctor Who in no order and coming up for you I’ve got The Underwater Menace after I got my hands on an unrestored copy of episode 2. That was an exciting day! I’m also going to cover the other recently discovered beauty, Galaxy Four as well as bringing you a preview/review of the upcoming book from Mad Norwegian Press: Queers Dig Time Lords.

Today also saw the release of a whole bundle of Who DVDs, we’ve got series 7.2, although I’m hoping we get a nice complete box set later in the year. We had a re-release of both Peter Cushing Dr. Who movies and Inferno got a nice, although under worked special edition.

I got my copy at the weekend and I have to say it isn’t beaming with new material. Apparently it looks ten times better than it’s predecessor, but it only carries two new documentaries; Toby Hadoke (who is brilliant!) reuniting Havok and the latest part of the Doctor Forever series, which is a fantastic set of documentaries showcasing how the programme was kept alive between 1989 and 2005.

I’ll see you all later on as I begin my journey into The Underwater Menace, I welcome all your thoughts and comments, so let me know what you think of each story/episode as I’m watching my way through them and I hope you enjoy my little comments on these pieces of television magic!