28 July 2012

Shaken not Stirred, a history of 007: Part Two - the 1960s

Bob Simmons does the first gun barrel. Yes, wearing a hat.


The second decade of the history of James Bond saw one of Bond’s creators exit and another pair enter the scene. As society itself began to change, 007 was about to hit the world’s consciousness in full.


When I get to the films, I’m going to avoid a lengthy history of the production and make seven brief points on the film, along with a general comment about its quality.


Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli, the producer


Albert Romolo Broccoli (1909-1996) was an Italian-American born in New York City. After a string of jobs, he entered the film industry at a low level and worked his way up to become a producer, his first film in that position being 1953’s The Red Beret (US title Paratrooper), starring Alan Ladd, working with Irving Allen. After a string of box-office successes, although the films are largely forgotten now, as independent producers, the two ended up going bankrupt after their 1960 film The Trial of Oscar Wilde failed to make its production costs back due to an adverse reaction against the subject matter (i.e. Wilde being gay) that prevented US advertising.


When he teamed up with Harry Saltzman to produce the Bond movies, he had no idea just how much money they were going to make. He only made two more non-Bond films, a rather forgotten 1963 farce called Call Me Bwana and the 1968 film adaptation of Ian Fleming’s other novel, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as the franchise became a full time job for him. He would remain involved in the franchise for the rest of his life, although heart problems reduced him to a consulting role on GoldenEye, where he handed over to his stepson and daughter from his third marriage (the first ended in an amicable divorce, his second wife died), Michael G. Wilson[1] and Barbara Broccoli, who continue to run the franchise.


Cubby was highly respected by cast and crew, as well as the rest of the industry – he was given the Irving G. Thalberg Award at the 1982 Oscars and got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Tomorrow Never Dies, the first film produced after his death, was dedicated to his memory.




America’s secret spy flights over the USSR were made very public after one of their spy planes was shot down and the pilot captured[1].


With the CBS television series having fallen through, Fleming decided to convert four of the outlines into short stories and add a fifth into a short story collection – although two of these were published previously in magazines before turning up here.


For Your Eyes Only (short story collection)


FYEO consists of five stories:

·         "From a View to a Kill" – Bond investigates the murder of a motorcycle dispatch rider and the theft of his documents in Paris.

·         “For Your Eyes Only” – Bond is assigned to protect Judy Havelock, daughter of a Jamaican couple murdered by the ex-Gestapo head of Cuban counterintelligence.

·         “Quantum of Solace” – Bond attends a dinner party and gets told a story about an unhappy marriage.

·         “Risico” – Bond goes to Italy to find out about a drug smuggling operation.

·         “The Hildebrand Rarity” – A nasty American millionaire recruits Bond to look for a rare fish.


Elements of three of the stories worked their way into various Bond movies, while the other two became titles for films – although “From a View to a Kill” lost the “from”. Reviews were pretty good and the book did well.




As John F Kennedy became President, the Cold War began to heat up. A US-backed invasion of Cuba by exiles failed spectacularly and East Germany erected the Berlin Wall, resulting in a standoff between US and Soviet tanks at Checkpoint Charlie.


When JFK listed From Russia, With Love in his top 10 books in an interview for Life, sales of the Bond novels skyrocketed.


Fleming auctioned the film rights to his books, bar Casino Royale. The winner of the six-month option, paying the large sum for the time of $50,000, was one Harry Saltzman. Broccoli couldn’t persuade Saltzman to part with the rights, but did persuade him to form a production company together. This company became EON (Everything or Nothing) Productions.


Saltzman and Broccoli needed money to make the film of course. After attending a meeting with United Artists, they got a million dollars to make the first of the Bond movies – not a huge amount by modern, or for that matter contemporary, standards (according to usinflationcalculator.com, this equates to about $7.7m, which a US primetime show could happily blow in three episodes).


Harry Saltzman, the big gambler


The second half of the original Bond “show runner” team was Herschel “Harry” Saltzman (1915-1994), a Canadian-born man who ran away at 17 to join a circus and after the war found his way into stage production. Moving into film, he produced three highly acclaimed social realism films, most notably 1959’s Look Back In Anger and after reading Goldfinger, bid on the rights. While not a hugely successful producer, he did like to think outside the box.


Saltzman never made Bond the full time role that Cubby did, working on a number of other products during his tenure, such as Battle of Britain and three adaptations of Len Deighton’s “Harry Palmer novels”[3] starring Michael Caine, the first one being The IPCRESS File in 1965.



They now had to find their Bond. The first choice was Patrick McGoohan, who turned the role down on moral grounds, while Cary Grant and James Mason both could not agree terms. Dana Broccoli, Cubby’s wife, convinced him that a certain Sean Connery was the man for the role. Cubby was reluctant and Fleming didn’t like him, although Fleming would later warm to Sean enough to retroactively make Bond half-Scottish, half-Swiss.


Sean Connery, the first Bond


Sir Sean Connery, (1930-present), for many, but not all, the definitive 007, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. After a variety of job, including bodybuilding, artist’s model and milkman, he went into acting. He appeared in a batch of TV roles and had a small part in the 1962 historical epic on the D-Day landings The Longest Day. As such, he was a relative unknown when he was cast as the secret agent.


Connery had a very long career after Bond; I won’t go into his roles here (I suspect everyone has seen him in something non-Bond), but has now pretty much retired from acting.



Meanwhile, Ian Fleming was about to get into a bit of legal difficulty that would ultimately impact on the entire franchise for many years to come.


Thunderball (novel)


Bond gets sent for a detox by M, where someone tries to kill him. At the same time, crime organisation SPECTRE hijack a nuclear bomber [a fictitious Villiers Vindicator] and its cargo of two nuclear bombs, intending to engage in mass extortion.


The introduction of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, arguably the most famous Bond villain, Thunderball is a pretty good read. This is because the plot was originally meant for a screenplay that Fleming did with Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham. When the film fell through (a recent film failure by McClory meant that they didn’t get the money for it), Fleming turned it into a novel without McClory’s agreement. McClory sued and tried to stop publication. He failed to stop the book hitting the shelves, but the legal case wasn’t over yet.




The world teetered on the brink of a Third World War after the USSR deployed medium-range missiles to Cuba. The crisis was resolved with a public agreement by the US not to invade and a private one to remove similar missiles in Turkey.


The Daily Express comic strip came to a temporary halt after Fleming and Lord Beaverbrook fell out over the former selling “The Living Daylights” (the short story) to The Sunday Times. Fleming suffered a heart attack (one of a number) and while recovering, wrote children’s novel Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for his son – it would be published in 1964.


The Spy Who Loved Me (novel)


A young Canadian woman looks after a hotel for a night, where she has an encounter with a pair of murderous mobsters and a British secret agent…


The shortest of the Bond novels, this first-person tale doesn’t even feature Bond until two-thirds of the way through. I’ve never actually read it myself, but the reviews at the time were highly negative. Even Fleming disliked it – he barred EON from using any of the story bar the title, but the filmmakers did incorporate a steel-toothed character from the novel, majorly changed, as Jaws.


Dr. No (film)


“Unfortunately I misjudged you. You are just a stupid policeman whose luck has run out” – Dr. No


James Bond is sent to Jamaica to determine what is interfering with American space launches. There he will encounter the evil Dr. Julius No on his island of Crab Key…


·         The only one of the Bond films not to include a pre-titles sequence; the gun barrel goes straight into the title sequence. Also Bond, wearing a hat, is played by Bob Simmons here.

·         It also does not have a dedicated title song – the tune is John Barry’s arrangement of Monty Norman’s “James Bond Theme”[4]

·         Noel Coward was offered the role of Dr. No, but declined in the following telegram: “Dr. No? No! No! No!”. The role went to Joseph Wiseman.

·         In a sight gag that isn’t obvious to a modern audience, Dr. No is seen to own a Goya painting of the Duke of Wellington that had been stolen in real life from London’s National Gallery just before filming began.

·         Not counting Skyfall, this is one of only two EON Bond films to feature a Q not played by Desmond Llewellyn – Peter Burton here plays a character credited as Major Boothroyd, but only called the armourer on screen.

·         Ursula Andress and most of the women in the movie were dubbed by an un-credited Nikki van der Zyl; Swiss-born Andress was felt to have too strong an accent for the film.

·         The scene in which Bond shoots a henchman knowing full well he’s unarmed came close to be cut and got trims to it to allow for an ‘A’ rating in the UK, allowing for minors to enter with adult accompaniment.


While not the best of Connery’s Bond films (although it’s not a bad film at all), Dr. No was a smash hit, grossing $59.5 million dollars after release in October 1962, a quarter of that in the US (where it was released in May 1963), where 19 million tickets were sold. Adjusting for inflation, the take was close to $441m dollars at 2012 prices; a hit by any standards and fifth for 1963 (the winner was Liz Taylor’s Cleopatra). This was despite, or perhaps because, of condemnation from the Vatican and the Kremlin.




John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. The prime suspect, who was shot dead two days later on live television, had spent over a year in the USSR. [And that’s as far as we’re going with any theories on that – Ed.] Before that though, former SIS officer Kim Philby, who had been working for Moscow Centre as a double since before the war defected to the USSR[5] and the British establishment was rocked by the revelation that Secretary of State for War John Profumo was having an affair with a woman who’d also been sleeping with a GRU agent.


The stress of the McClory lawsuit caused Fleming to suffer another heart attack. That suit was settled out of court with the following deal:

·         The words “based on a screen treatment by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, and Ian Fleming” would appear on the title page of all subsequent printings of Thunderball.

·         McClory gained the rights to make a film version of the book and the rights to all aspects of it – including, he would claim, SPECTRE and Blofeld.


The first part wasn’t so bad; the last was going to cause a lot of headaches for a lot of EON. Before this, Fleming got another novel published, which would be a significant one in the series’ history.


On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (novel)


Engaged in a fruitless hunt for Blofeld, Bond prepares to resign from MI6. As he is about to do so, he meets the daughter of a European crime boss. A woman who will be the love of his life.


Another good novel, where Bond gets a lot of development as a character – then gets married and widowed in the space of a single day. Critics liked it as well.


Thrilling Cities (travel article collection)


A compilation of travel articles on various world cities that Fleming had written for The Sunday Times, with some other bits added, the US version of the book included a James Bond short story, 007 in New York. I’ve not read that book; plan to though.


From Russia With Love (film)


“Red wine with fish. Well, that should have told me something” – Bond, on learning that the guy helping him is actually working for SPECTRE


Not happy with Bond for ending their Crab Key operation in the previous film, SPECTRE decide to get him to steal a Soviet coding machine and then kill him in a humiliating manner…


·         The reason for this one going second was simple – JFK’s endorsement. The change to SPECTRE was due to EON’s desire not to be too closely tied in to contemporary politics – which arguably helped the longevity of the films.

·         The first pre-titles sequence of the EON films features Bond apparently killed… until the mask is removed and the dead guy is revealed to be a hapless SPECTRE operative.

·         Desmond Llewellyn makes his first appearance as Q; giving Bond a very versatile briefcase.

·         Italian Bond girl Daniela Bianchi was also dubbed for her role as Tatiana Romanova. Her scene with Connery where she casually walks out of his hotel room shower and clambers into his bed wearing nowt but a throat ribbon is still used to screen test Bonds.

·         Pedro Armendariz, who plays Bond’s ally Kerim Bey, was suffering from terminal cancer during and in chronic pain that required morphine to cope with – he shot himself shortly after filming was complete.

·         This has the first appearance of Blofeld, although we only see his hands and his famous Persian cat.

·         Notable action sequences include one of cinema’s most famous catfights, a brutal fight in a train compartment and a helicopter/boat chase that managed to cost one cameraman his foot, while nearly killing director Peter Young.


Dr. No had been big – From Russia With Love was just as big, with queues around the block to see it[6] and reportedly even being seen in the Kremlin. It’s a toss-up between this and Goldfinger for best Connery film; I would say this edges it.




The United States used an incident in the Gulf of Tonkin to escalate the nation’s involvement in Vietnam.


After seeing some filming of Goldfinger, seeing his eleventh novel published, getting a first draft done of his twelfth and contributing some ideas to a TV series called The Man from U.N.C.L.E.[7] before EON advised him to withdraw, Ian Fleming suffered a fatal heart attack on 11 August 1964. He died the following day – his son’s 12th birthday.


You Only Live Twice (novel)


Following the death of his wife, Bond goes to pieces. M, trying to snap him out of it, gives him one last chance – sending him on a near-impossible mission to Japan, where he has a final confrontation with Blofeld…


Fleming had been to Japan on a couple of occasions and this is an interesting insight into that culture, but the novel isn’t all that good and the reviews felt Fleming was running out of steam.


Goldfinger (film)


“Choose your next witticism carefully Mr Bond, it may be your last” – Auric Goldfinger


James Bond investigates the mysterious millionaire Auric Goldfinger and discovers the lengths he is willing to go to for gold…


·         The pre-titles sequence sees Bond blowing up a heroin refinery, then removing his wetsuit to reveal an immaculate tuxedo – then killing an assassin via an electric heater in a bathtub.

·         Shirley Bassey sings the first of her three Bond themes.

·         The plot makes a number of changes to the book that actually make the plot more sensible.

·         This of course contains the much-homaged, much-parodied laser scene and the classic “No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die!”

·         Bond drives an Aston Martin for the first time here – while he has used other car makes, the tricked-out DB5 is seen as his definitive vehicle.

·         German actor Gert Forbe, playing Goldfinger, was dubbed due to his poor command of English. The film was banned in Israel  for many years to Forbe having been a member of the Nazi Party – until it emerged he had hid two Jews from the Gestapo.

·         Harold Sakata, who plays hat-throwing assassin Odd Job, won a silver medal for weightlifting for the US in the 1948 London Olympics.


Goldfinger was huge – there was a near-riot at the premiere and the film grossed almost $125m. The film itself remains a true classic of the Bond franchise with some iconic scenes, even if one key moment has since been “busted” as implausible by the Mythbusters team.



During 1964 McClory tried and failed to get a Thunderball adaptation going on his own. After that, he went to EON and agreed to collaborate on a film version of Thunderball, with an agreement he could not make another version for 10 years afterwards. That would be the next film.


At the same time, a guy named Charles K. Feldman, who had acquired the Casino Royale rights, also tried to get that film produced with EON. No deal was reached and so Feldman set to make the film on his own…




The Indonesian military launched a coup to stop an alleged imminent communist take-over, with the leader of the coup eventually becoming the military leader of the country.


With three very successful films, the imitators began to arrive en masse on TV and on screen. Matt Helm, I Spy, The Wild, Wild West, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, Get Smart! – and these are just the better remembered English-language work that started or premiered in this year. In the pages of Tales of Suspense, Iron Man had more than one go against the forces of communism. These works either spoofed Bond, tried to ape him or tried to present a grittier, realer version of the espionage world.


Unlike 007, who tended to avoid battles against the Reds (on screen at any rate), most of these faced the forces of either the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or the People’s Republic of China[8]. The tropes associated with the “Red Scare” are many (I should know, I created a few of the relevant entries on TV tropes), ranging from ruthless Russian strongmen to sultry Moscow Centre femme fatales, who may or may not have a penchant for torture, seducing American military officers and engaging in serious long-term relationships [Which sometimes produce equally sultry offspring – Ed.].


The Gilbert toy company in the US released a large number of 007 toys – however, when their slot-car Road Race Set was discovered to have a major fault with it, the sheer number of refunds they had to pay out bankrupted the company.


Fleming’s final novel was now released…


The Man with the Golden Gun (novel)


After going missing at the end of the previous novel, Bond turns up at MI6 – and tries to kill M. It’s discovered Moscow Centre brainwashed him and after his de-programming, Bond is sent to Jamaica to kill Cuban assassin Francisco Scaramanga, the man with a gold-plated Colt .45 that fires gold bullets.


Fleming was planning to make this his last novel – he felt he was running out of steam. The novel isn’t one of his best – he didn’t have the time to fully finish it and add all the detail he usually did. The reviews were poor, but the critics felt they couldn’t savage the book too much in the circumstances.


Meanwhile, 007 was getting even bigger.


Thunderball (film)


“I think he got the point” – Bond, after killing a henchman with a harpoon gun


[As the plot is essentially the same as the novel, I won’t repeat it here]


·         The film’s PTS sees the funeral of a JB… Jacques Boitier, a French agent who killed two of Bond’s colleagues. Bond is suspicious of his “widow”… After killing the guy properly, Bond escapes via jetpack (a real one intended for military use, but never put into service)…

·         Tom Jones sings the title song, “Thunderball” (a last minute replacement for Dionne Warwick’s “Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”) – according to legend, he fainted on the final note and you can certainly hear a trail-off on the track.

·         After a two-film break, Maurice Binder would helm the title sequences from here on, with the now standard nude ladies in silhouette, until 1989. 

·         Claudine Auger’s Domino Derval was dubbed – as was Adolfo Celi’s Emilio Largo. Auger was a former Miss France and EON went for beauty over the ability to speak fluent English.

·         The film was planned to be released in September 1965, but the sheer amount of editing required meant it was put back until December.

·         This is the first widescreen Bond film and the first to feature the actual star doing the “gun barrel”.

·         The budget for the film, that included extensive underwater sequences and a mock-up of a British Vulcan B.1 nuclear bomber[9]


Thunderball was like Bond winning a triple rollover (there is a National Lottery game of the same name) – the box office was huge. Inflation adjusted, this film cleared over a billion dollars and remains the largest grossing of the films when calculated that way; it is the 28th highest grosser of all time in the US. Possibly not as good as the others – the climax gets a bit silly and underwater sequences are not the most action-packed things in Bond movies.




Mao launched the Cultural Revolution in China, aiming to remove “bourgeois” elements from the PRC. The human cost is massive.


You wait ages for a spy film and then several dozen come along at once. With no new Bond film out this year, cinema got filled with even more spy films cashing in (or attempting to) on the craze. Mission: Impossible began on US TV – where a dozen spy shows were now airing on the networks, up from one in 1964.


EON decided to do You Only Live Twice next – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was going to require high, snowy locations. While scouting locations for that in Japan, Broccoli and Saltzman decided to change their flight at the last minute to see a ninja demonstration – and therefore avoided dying in the subsequent crash of that plane, BOAC Flight 911.


Fleming’s last Bond work was now released.


Octopussy and The Living Daylights (short story collection)


Three of the stories here had been already published elsewhere – only Octopussy was new for this book.

·         Octopussy – Bond is assigned to apprehend a murdering war hero.

·         The Living Daylights – Bond, feeling pretty unhappy, is assigned to play counter-sniper to cover a blown agent as he escapes East Berlin – as a top Moscow Centre assassin codenamed “Trigger” has been sent to kill him.

·         Property of a Lady (added in later editions) – Bond attends an auction aiming to spot the Soviet controller of a double agent, who is auctioning a Fabergé egg given to her to get herself paid.

·         007 in New York (added in later editions) – Bond muses about NYC while on a mission to warn an agent about her boyfriend.


From what I recall – and I heard an audio telling of this some years back on BBC radio  - The Living Daylights is a brilliant story – the story was used pretty much unchanged for part of the EON film of the same name. Elements of the first and third made their way into Octopussy.


Fleming had been commissioned by auction house Sotheby’s for Property, but wasn’t happy with the story and declined payment.




Israel launched a pre-emptive attack against a looming invasion by its Arab neighbours, resulting in the Six Day War. After its conclusion, Israel controlled parts of Jordan, Syria and Egypt, with millions of Palestinians either displaced or under occupation. The resultant terrorism lasts to this day.


The Fleming estate, in a failed attempt at a youth-aimed spinoff, released The Adventures of James Bond Junior 003½, revolving around the adventures of Bond’s nephew[10] written by “R. D. Mascott” – who has never been identified by Ian Fleming Publications.


Feldman managed to get Casino Royale made, with severe difficulty and going way over the initial budget. This year, although the films wouldn’t be released at the same time, Bond was going against Bond.


You Only Live Twice (film)


“This organization does not tolerate failure” - Blofeld


An American spacecraft is hijacked from orbit, seemingly by the USSR and Bond is sent to Japan to investigate. In fact, SPECTRE are behind a plan to start a Third World War…


·         British author Roald Dahl, best known for his children’s novels such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda, created a pretty much original plot for the film (not liking the novel), only retaining SPECTRE and the Japan location – in fact, most of the film is set in Japan, unlike the usual globe-trotting that Bond does.

·         The pre-title sequence sees Bond apparently killed in Hong Kong; allowing him to work undercover.

·         Blofeld’s volcano lair, designed by production designer Ken Adam’s and requiring a record-size production space for Europe at that time, is a classic, much-homaged set.

·         Donald Pleasance plays Ernst Stavro Blofeld, seen in full for the first time.

·         Akiko Wakabayashi and Mie Hama, who play the two female Japanese characters here – Aki and Kissy respectively. Hama had been cast for the former role, then called Suki, but the ladies swapped as Hama had problems with her English and Kissy’s role had less dialogue. Both were dubbed anyway – this is the last film to use extensive post-production dubbing.

·         Apart from a big battle scene, there is a great sequence where Bond pilots an autogyro called Little Nellie, designed, built and flown by Wing Commander Ken Wallis.

·         This is the first film to see Bond in Royal Navy uniform – he is a reservist with the rank of Commander (material on the sites for the Craig Bond movies also have him as a veteran Special Boat Service – the RN equivalent of the SAS).


A rather spectacular film, with a biggish budget, YOLT is enjoyable, but there’s better out there.


Two months before this film’s release in June, the spoof came out…


Casino Royale – the spoof (film)


“It's depressing that the words ‘secret agent’ have become synonymous with ‘sex maniac’” – Sir James Bond


Sir James Bond is forced out of retirement to investigate the deaths of international spies, resulting in him going up against the forces of Dr. Noah and SMERSH.


·         Feldman decided from the get-go that this was going to be a spoof, feeling he would never be able to beat the EON films in the action stakes.

·         The original Bond is played by David Niven, but as he orders all remaining MI6 agents will be called “James Bond 007”, this results in no less than six on-screen Bonds.

·         The film went through five directors and cost twice its original budget; the final $12m cost was more the five EON films to date. It also ran well over schedule and was delayed by four months.

·         A large number of famous names turn up in various cameos; some just wanted to hang out with the other famous names. The main cast includes original Bond girl Ursula Andress, Peter Sellers, Woody Allen and Orson Welles.

·         Peter Sellers in fact left the production early, causing a nightmare in editing.

·         Here Bond has an estranged daughter from a relationship with real spy “Mata Hari”, stripper exotic dancer turned secret agent in the First World War, who eventually got caught by the French and shot.

·         The film is available legitimately on YouTube.


Contemporary reviews were lukewarm to poor – personally, I think this is a very silly film.



The battle of the Bonds was won by the Connery film handily, especially abroad, but Royale (which grossed worse than every EON Bond film to date, but was still a hit) impacted that film and overall takings were considerably down.


Connery had faced a lot of press harassment during the making of his fifth film, including being followed into a restroom. During the making of the film, he announced he would not be doing another one.




After the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, which must be deemed a military draw for the North Vietnamese at best, US public perception of the Vietnam War changed decisively. Lyndon Johnson opted not to stand for a second term as President and after riots at the Democratic National Convention, Richard Nixon won a close presidential election. In Libya, Gaddafi seized power.


Well-known author Kingsley Amis (who had written a couple of non-fiction books on Bond) was asked to write a new Bond novel, which he published under the name Robert Markham.


Colonel Sun (novel)


M is kidnapped and Bond must find him. He discovers that the Red Chinese, led by Colonel Sun Liang-tan are responsible, aiming to cause an international incident.


Never read this one – two elements of this worked their way into Brosnan films. Did well, but Amis didn’t do another one and there would be no new original Bond novels until 1981.




A series of Sino-Soviet border clashes brought China and the USSR near to all-out war and possibly nuclear conflict. The split between Moscow and Beijing is complete.


With Connery gone, EON had to find a replacement James Bond. A number of actors were screen tested (and later Bond Timothy Dalton declined feeling he was too young, being only 22 at the time, while Roger Moore was under contract for The Saint), but after he reportedly broke the nose of a stuntman in a fight scene, male model George Lazenby was  chosen to be the next Bond.


George Lazenby – The One-Time Bond


George Lazenby (1939-present) is an Australian – the only Bond not from the British Isles so far. A male model and commercial actor (after service in the Australian army, where he achieved the rank of Sergeant), being one of the highest paid models in Europe, a role in an ad for Fry’s Chocolate caught the eye of the Bond execs.


Lazenby’s post-Bond career hasn’t been as good to him as with other Bonds; a film with Bruce Lee was prevented due to that actor’s early death, although he did do a number of financially successful kung fu. Most of his roles were relatively low profile ones.


On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (film)


[Again, the plot is essentially that of the novel – a very faithful adaptation in fact]


“This never happened to the other fellow” – Bond, after rescuing Tracy


·         This is the only Bond theme that doesn’t have any lyrics, not counting the first one.

·         Tracy di Vicenzo was played by Diana Rigg (now Dame Diana Rigg) very well known for her role as Emma Peel in The Avengers – the 1960s TV series that is. The popularity of that particular Sydney Newman created show in the UK is such that the recent Joss Whedon superhero film was renamed to Avengers Assemble for British release.

·         Blofeld here is played by Telly Savalas, best known for his role as Kojak.

·         This is the second longest Bond film at 140 minutes; only Casino Royale from 2006 is longer at 144 minutes.

·         Blofeld’s lair is located at a mountain top restaurant in Switzerland only accessible by cable car (which helped keep the press away) that EON agreed to refit and install a helicopter pad for. The restaurant retained the name used in the film – Piz Gloria – and remains a tourist attraction.

·         Due to Lazenby’s “unknown” status, ads for this film concentrated on the character, with a number featuring a “faceless” Bond. UA stated later this was a marketing mistake.

·         When this was broadcast in the US on the ABC network in 1976, the way in which the film was presented caused massive controversy.


The reviews were good; the box office wasn’t, with just over half of the global takings of the previous films (this was still a big hit of course, grossing over half a billion in 2012 dollars). OHMSS isn’t too bad in my opinion; I plan to watch it again in the near future - there’s plenty worse and the years have been pretty good to it. Many fans love it.


Lazenby had been persuaded by his agent that Bond was old hat and so decided not to do any more films – a lot of negative coverage of the making of the film made the parting from EON easier (see 1970).


For EON, while they’d still had a hit, they felt things needed to change. One change would involve a step back, as it were.

[1]Michael G. Wilson has made a cameo appearance in voice or on-screen every Bond film since 1977 and before that in Goldfinger.

[2]The flights were conducted to determine the existence or not of a bomber and later missile “gap” between the US and the USSR i.e. that the USSR had a huge advantage in strategic nuclear weapons with hundreds of nuclear armed bombers and later ICBMs. This “gap” was used to justify a massive build-up of US nuclear capability. The gap proved to be entirely the other way – the Soviet Union had a total of four ICBMs at this time. This lack of long-range weaponry was a reason for the 1962 Cuban deployment.


The pilot in question, Gary Powers, was imprisoned and later swapped for a Moscow Centre colonel. The shoot down itself, which involved S-75/SA-2 SAMs that also managed to destroy a MiG-19 pursuing Powers, killing the pilot, would fundamentally alter strike warfare and force a move from flying “above” enemy defences to flying “below” them i.e. down at low-level.

[3]Len Deighton (1929-present), who has now retired from writing, wrote a good number of spy novels, plus a couple of other works and a few military history books. The four “Harry Palmer” books (the protagonist is never named in the books beyond someone calling him “Harry” and only gets that name in the films) are among his best known. However, other good works of his include Second World War novel Bomber and the Bernard Samson series, which can be described as a trilogy of trilogies with an epic thrown in for good measure.

[4]There were two legal cases on the precise authorship of the tune; both concluded it was Norman who came up with it.

[5] Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby is held to be the third of at least five members of the “Cambridge spy ring” (being recruited at Cambridge university in the 1930s) and in his role as head of Soviet counter-espionage was able to deflect attention away from himself, plus the other members, but had been forced to resign in 1951 after the Burgess and Maclean defections – otherwise he might have ended up heading SIS. Subsequently cleared, he became a journalist, but when he was blown by a Soviet defector, he fled to Moscow, where he lived out the rest of his days in relative poverty.


The following year, Sir Anthony Blunt, a former MI5 officer now working as an art historian, confessed to working for the USSR in return for immunity. He was publically revealed as the fourth man in 1979, at which point he lost his knighthood.


The “fifth man”, John Cairncross, had been caught in 1951, confessed and was sacked as a result – he wasn’t fully publicly identified until 1979, along with Blunt.

[6]One has to remember that multiplex cinemas were rare back then – while there were a lot more cinemas, they tended to have only one screen. It was also common to show films with another shorter movie beforehand; this is where the term “B-movie” originates.

[7]NBC series running from 1964 to 1968 before being cancelled in the middle of Season Four after taking an excessively campy turn, originally starring Robert Vaughn (best known for his role in The Magnificent Seven) as Napoleon Solo. David McCallum’s Russian operative Illya Kuryakin proved so popular (especially among the ladies) that he went from minor character to second lead. The two worked for a global spy organisation called United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, to tackle various threats, most notably SPECTRE-esque organisation THRUSH. Both Vaughn and McCallum are still in the acting business – Vaughn did eight seasons of con-artist show Hustle for the BBC before it was decided to end the show and McCallum has spent nine seasons (so far) as Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard in hit NBC series NCIS, the most watched drama currently airing in the US, which included a reference to his U.N.C.L.E.  role in one episode.

[8]Small, but important, historical note – until Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit, the US did not have diplomatic relations with Beijing (or, as it was then rendered in English, Peking) and the fifth permanent seat on the UN Security Council was taken by the Republic of China i.e. Taiwan, where the former Chinese government had moved to after the 1949 revolution.

[9]The Avro Vulcan was one of the three V-bombers fielded by the RAF and the most successful, with superb low-level performance and a very good standoff capability with the Blue Steel missile. Its swansong came in 1982, when a number of bombers performed the then longest-range combat missions in history (from Ascension Island to the Falklands and back) to attack Argentine targets.


The other two bombers were the Handley Page Victor, which became an effective tanker after the change to low-level and the Vickers Valiant, which suffered major fatigue problems as a result, being deemed not worth the cost of keeping service.

[10]Which doesn’t make sense – Bond is an only child and an orphan, although he did father a child in You Only Live Twice.

27 July 2012

Let the Games begin

So, after over seven years and nine billion pounds, it's here. Now, let's hope all our preparation goes to plan.

26 July 2012

Mary Tamm RIP

Mary Tamm, who played the first incarnation of the Time Lady Romana in Doctor Who, has died aged 62.


Phoenix Roleplaying extends its deepest condolences to her family and friends.

20 July 2012


This city in Colorado, which most people have never heard of until today, is now sadly destined to be "that place where that shooting happened".

What on earth makes someone go into a crowded cinema and just start shooting people, then walk out and give himself up so he can have several days of fame? Words fail.

My thoughts and prayers are with the victims.

Fringe 1.3 "The Ghost Network"

Getting a bit better this - the concept and overall solution of the mystery was an interesting one and the ending was rather good, setting up an arc nicely.

Wouldn't trust Walter with my brain though...


19 July 2012

Fashion Victims in Space (Review: 'Doctor Who', "The Moonbase")

You comment on my appearance one more time and you’re history, capiche?

[Images from the Doctor Who Wikia]

There’s a certain type of science fiction, most notably personified by Dan Dare, where lantern-jawed heroes defeat evil space aliens, some of whom look a bit Chinese. “The Moonbase” isn’t one of these, but it reminded me of it at times.

My review series now takes me into the Troughton era. The Lost In Time DVD set includes the following episodes before this:
·         Episodes 2, 5 and 10 of “The Daleks’ Master Plan” - I reviewed the audio here, but these three episodes give a further insight into the story.
·         “The Final Test”, Episode 4 of “The Celestial Toymaker” – drags badly until the last 10 minutes.
·         “The Underwater Menace” – comically bad; I was laughing a lot in it. I am informed that Episode 2, recently recovered, is much better.

There is also a collection of clips from some of the other stories, mostly either 8mm off-screen footage or clips cut by the Australian censor, which results in the stuff from “The Savages” essentially being a lot of deaths…

So to “The Moonbase”. This one’s the sixth story from Season 4, the Innes Lloyd/Gerry Davis era and is the fourth of the Troughton stories. Only Episodes 2 and 4 survive, but the audio of the other two are on the discs.

So, let’s go back to the spring of 1967. Both the USSR and the US had landed unmanned spacecraft on the moon, but tragedy had also struck the space race with the deaths of three American astronauts in a fire on the ground of Apollo 1 – in April of that year, a Soviet cosmonaut, Vladimir Komarov, would also die when the re-entry capsule of Soyuz 1 failed to open its parachute properly and crashed into the ground.

Despite these setbacks, it was only a matter of time before man set foot on Earth’s largest satellite. So the Doctor Who team decided that they would capitalise on the huge interest in space, the final frontier[1]…

The Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie arrive on the Moon in 2070. As they go outside in their spacesuits, Jamie gets himself injured while bouncing around and the team take him to the Moonbase, where a group of plucky scientists control Earth’s weather through a gravity device called the Gravitron. A mysterious plague is sweeping the station and the time travellers are suspected. In reality, it’s the Cybermen, thought long dead after “The Tenth Planet”[2] who want to destroy life on Earth…

Title Sequence

It’s the same as the one I discussed in my review of “The Crusade” – in fact, this is the last time that sequence appears; as the following story “The Macra Terror” introduces the version with the Doctor’s face.


As the tagline for a certain sci-fi movie reminds us, in space, no-one can hear you scream. This also applies to the surface of the Moon, where there is no atmosphere. The production team, for the scenes set on the lunar surface, decided to use incidental music to accompany the silent action – it works rather well and I found myself humming some of it. Some floor manager talkback got into Episode 4 and couldn’t be removed before TX – I failed to notice it though.

There’s no narration on the two audio episodes, but I found that I got the plot a bit easier than I did with “The Crusade” – although my copy of The Television Companion was needed a bit.


This is a textbook “base under siege” story, with a bunch of scientists and Team TARDIS having to stop the Cybermen from taking over the facility. The Cybermen (who state that “Resistance is useless”) use infiltration via the plague, which gets them reasonably far – then outright assault. The multinational crew are initially suspicious of the Doctor, then accept his assistance when he gets to the (easy after it’s revealed) solution to the plague’s spread.

There’s some great stuff in Episodes 2 and 3, particularly as the Cybermen start converting (just enough for the job at hand) people. Episode 1 is reasonable enough, but Episode 4 kind of lets the side down a little – a bit where the crew all standing together cheer the Cybermen defeat is a bit, well, Dan Dare. Also, there’s one pretty big “how did they miss that?” moment in that episode.

The Gravitron is an interesting concept, but it gets used in a not entirely convincing way – one particular scene didn’t pass my smell test.

Direction and staging

This is entirely studio-bound (Riverside 1, then Lime Grove D). The lunar surface sequences are well done for the limited budget[3] – they were used in the promos. The interior of the Moonbase is also a pretty good set, although I doubt that you’d in reality have windows that big, particularly in a place where there is no atmosphere to stop micro-meteorites.

1960s sci-fi failed to anticipate the advances in computer processing power and visual display – you’ve got tape reel computers here and the visual displays are limited. One character refers to a radio setting in terms of its wavelength – frequency is now the almost universally used way of describing this sort of thing.

A scene where the Cybermen walk across the Moon is done very well – there’s a decent number of Cybermen suits used here (one of which was filled by John Levene, later to play Sergeant Benton), which really helps.

Model work – a bit poor and there are some visible wires in places.

The regulars

The TARDIS gets a bit crowded with three companions, I find.

·         The Doctor – Superb here, with Troughton settled into the role nicely and getting one of the defining lines of the entire show[4]. There’s a scene where the Doctor is obtaining samples to find the cause of the virus that’s very funny, especially when he removes one guy’s boot without asking him first. You could easily imagine Matt Smith doing this scene.
·         Jamie – Incapacitated for quite a bit of the story, Frazer Hines is good, but doesn’t get a lot to do here.
·         Ben – Michael Craze’s chirpy Cockney gets on my nerves. He only really serves to ask the Doctor what’s happening and help barricade a door in the final episode. He’s also a bit sexist when he tells Polly that
·         Polly – I’ve not experienced her before really (apart from “The Macra Terror”, which I’ve largely forgotten), but Anneke Wills’ character was useless in “The Underwater Menace” and isn’t much better here. Sure, she comes up with a key scheme that defeats the first attack, but the rest of the time, she’s reduced to screaming and making coffee. Seriously – making coffee.

The guest cast

There are a lot of fashion victims in this story. The crew were very short-sleeved T-shirts with big name bags in the centre and the French guy wears a rather stereotypical neckerchief[5] – there’s also a rather silly hat worn in the Gravitron control room and the spacesuits have very big fish-bowl helmets.

The multinational crew, who seem to all hail from Europe, don’t on the whole stand out, except for French guy Roget, who isn’t a cliché and British commander Hobson, who is all Second World War colonel. Good, but I’ve seen better.

The Cybermen

Superb. They look a bit different to the modern creatures – better in fact. They’re an improvement on the ones seen earlier in the season:

Peter Hawkins’ voice for them, which sounds like an evil text-to-speech machine, is very creepy and much better than the current voice. The creatures are wonderfully cold, project real menace and perfectly willing to use people without the slightest care in the world as to what happens to them. Well done to all involved with this.


A rather good middle first three episodes are let down by a merely average conclusion. There’s better in Season 4, there’s also a good deal worse.

Final point – this serial was a ratings success – every ep got over 8.1 million and peaked at 8.9, being the most-watched story of the season. Fandom view today is mixed.


[1]The original Star Trek was airing its first season at the time; it would not air in the UK though until 1969.
[2]Which is set in 1986 – it’s referenced by characters here.
[3]There are few places on Earth you can adequately recreate lunar conditions outside – for a start you’ve got a sky and clouds to contend with. For the Apollo missions, the volcanic interior of Iceland was used for training.
[4] "There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things that act against everything we believe in. They must be fought."
[5]To cover up a name tag error.

18 July 2012

Mitt Romney, tax returns and the race for the White House

There have been increasing calls for Mitt Romney to release more tax returns than the two years that he currently has - Obama has gone back ten years. While I don't of course know what is in said returns, Romney's refusal to release them is actually harming his campaign as until he does so, there is little chance of the story actually moving on from that onto other issues.

That said, what he has released is damaging enough - he only paid 14% tax in 2010. I doubt many of my readers paid that little.

My comments in April on the likely outcome remain valid. Mitt Romney is turning into the David Cameron of US politics - and he won't be able to form a coalition when he misses a fairly open goal.

12 July 2012

Falling between two stools (Review: 'Doctor Who and the Pescatons', 1976)

Edited to remove spoiler.

These days, we get original audios for Doctor Who at least a month. Back in the old days though, they were rather rare beasts. This one that I am reviewing as the first of the two Tom Baker works I am covering for my series, is only the second audio ever done for the show and broadcast – the second being a BBC Schools radio production called Exploration Earth from 1976, the same year as this was released.

As I’m between Seasons 13 and 14 for my history, it now seems appropriate to cover this one with a review as it was recorded during the gap – and released during Seas. Argo Records (an imprint of Decca), got a licence from the BBC to make an commercial Doctor Who story and release it on LP with the diamond logo on it. Argo never did another story in this verse and listening to this I can see why.

A mixture of first person narration from Tom Baker in-character[1] and dialogue with the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith, this particular tale is a cross between a “Companion Chronicle” and a full cast drama. Well, it’s not full cast – there are only three voice actors in this.

I got this out via my local library – the 2005 CD release includes a second disc with an interview with Lis Sladen where she comments this story was very quickly put together – her contribution was to be handed a script and sent to a studio for a morning during a filming break.


This 2 c.25-minute-episode audio, written by Victor Pemberton (who did Season 5’s “Fury from the Deep”), sees the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith on contemporary Earth, as they battle to stop an alien invasion by a fish-like race called the Pescatons, whose own planet is dying.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of problems with the story. It’s too short for a start and the style this is done means that entire conversations we could have heard are merely relayed to us by Baker. While aliens rampaging around London is a bigger even than the TV show could manage, the first person narration doesn’t work here – you could have had this done by a full cast commenting about it from a bunker.

The script isn’t that brilliant – there are bits where I laughed when I shouldn’t have done and the whole thing needed another few drafts. There is one colossal issue that knocks all the others into consideration. As it is a big spoiler, I’ll put it in Russian. If you can’t convert it back, drop me an email and I’ll convert it for you.

Десятый Доктор заявил, что он был "нет второго рода возможности человека". Здесь доктор даже не дает Pescatons один шанс или предложение, чтобы помочь им в любом случае, чтобы найти новый дом? на самом деле существа, которые живут в соленой воде, могли бы найти дом на Земле. Вместо этого, он и Сара Джейн в основном совершения геноцида, без угрызений совести. Это не доктор я знаю. На всех.

Sound design

The sound mix on Part One is pretty atrocious – the Doctor and Sarah’s voice conversation here sounds like they’re being interviewed, while I had to turn my CD player down for the rampage scene. Big Finish does this far better. The second episode is a lot better, but there’s an over-reliance on library sound effects throughout. Also, the incidental stings are very 1970s, a decade that taste forgot.

The regulars

Sarah Jane gets very little to do here – she has only a few scenes and isn’t present at the climax at all. She also seems a bit naïve for an experienced time traveller and Sladen’s delivery of some of her lines speak to the lack of practice she’d had.

Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor (who would not do another audio until 2009) does the best he can, but the script doesn’t help him much. While distracting a Pescaton by singing and dancing is very Doctor-ish, the Fourth Doctor is a man known for talking to himself and he doesn’t do that here.

The guest cast

The cast is rounded off by voiceover artiste Bill Mitchell[2] (1934-1997), playing Pescaton leader Zor, who sounds rather American (this threw me from a moment). He’s reasonable enough, but Zor’s character is your generic Hinchcliffe-era villain without any of the charm.


Pescatons ultimately fails as entertainment. There are some huge production problems that could have been solved if this wasn’t a rush job to make money from a very popular show.


[1]The only other incidence of a Who audio getting a first-person narration from the Doctor is 2010’s Dead Air, done by David Tennant.
[2]Actually Canadian, his husky-voiced, all-in-black including shades, career included an advert for Carlsberg, where he started it was probably the best lager… in the world. It says something that I am more familiar with the delivery of the last three words from Jeremy Clarkson. He also appeared on screen as a newsreader in Season 10’s “Frontier in Space”.

09 July 2012

'Doctor Who' Season 13 (1975/76): Best. Season. Ever?

He’s just made him see “Timelash”.


I’ve mentioned Doctor Who Magazine’s “Mighty 200” poll before and I’ll be mentioning it again. In 2009, it asked readers to rate all 200 of the stories up to “Planet of the Dead” (the latest one broadcast at that point) out of 10. The winner was “The Caves of Androzani” from Season 21 – but the overall best season was this one, Season 13. Three of the season’s stories got into the top 25, with “Pyramids of Mars” (pictured) getting to number 7. There isn’t a single story that could be unambiguously deemed a failure here – although one comes close.


This season switched back to an autumn start for another 26 episodes, with Hinchcliffe and Holmes continuing to be in charge and continuing the “Gothic Horror” approach they’d started with the previous season, all of the serials here being inspired by classic horror or sci-fi works. The nature of the material was going to attract a bit of controversy.


Doctor Who today goes out at about 7pm; this was going out around six, which meant many more younger viewers. Certain scenes in this, including one particularly bloody gunshot scene, might be today deemed problematic at any point before the 9pm watershed[1] and certainly would be avoided by the current production team. Most of the audience loved it, but a small and vocal minority started complaining about the violence shown, with the tabloid press[2] happily running their complaints.


Tom Baker and Lis Sladen would be handling this on their own for most of the season, with no new male companion cast to replace Ian Marter’s Harry Sullivan. The Doctor would not have another male with him (not counting K9) until Adric in Season 18.


Terror of the Zygons (6 parts)


Summoned back to Earth by the Brigadier, the team aid UNIT in investigating attacks on North Sea oil rigs. They find that a race of shape shifting aliens and their giant cyborg are responsible.


Held over from Season 12, this Douglas Camfield-directed story marks the last regular appearance of the Brigadier, who would not appear again until 1983. It’s an atmospheric story with memorable aliens – plus a rather dodgy alien “Nessie”. Harry Sullivan, never a hugely willing TARDIS passenger, leaves the crew here.


Planet of Evil (4 parts)


A distress signal summons the Doctor and Sarah Jane to the planet Morestra in the far future, where a geological expedition is under attack from an unseen killer.


Inspired by the 1956 classic sci-fi movie Forbidden Planet as well as The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde, this story was Lis Sladen’s favourite and terrified the young audience. The jungle set, entirely done in studio at Ealing, is superb and was for several years used to demonstrate how to do it.


Pyramids of Mars (4 parts)


In a mansion in 1911, mysterious things are going on. Killer mummies, a mysterious Egyptian and a powerful trapped alien with the power to destroy Earth. Sutekh must be stopped before he gives his gift of death to all humanity.


Influenced by The Mummy (the original two films, of course), Robert Holmes conducted a massive re-write of Lewis Griefer’s scripts, resulting in Griefer asking for his name to be removed from the credits and the story going out under the pseudonym of Stephen Harris[3]. The result was a true classic of Doctor Who, with a high body count, wonderful dialogue and some chilling scenes, such as the trip to an alternative 1980 or Sutekh’s killing of his chief henchman (“Sutekh brings the gift of death to all humanity”). Interestingly, the mansion location used was owned by Mick Jagger at the time and had previously been owned by Lord Carnarvon, who organised the dig that found the tomb of Tutankhamen.


Michael Sheard


This story features one of DW’s most prolific guest stars,  Michael Sheard (1938-2005), here playing Laurence Scarman. Sheard appeared in six stories in differing roles, appearing with five of the first seven Doctors. Outside of the show, he was best known for his role as Mr Bronson in BBC children’s’ drama Grange Hill[4] and Admiral Ozzel in The Empire Strikes Back, where he got killed by Darth Vader for bungling the Hoth attack.  He also played Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler on several occasions for each figure – including a cameo as Hitler in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (which also features two-time DW guest star Julian Glover).


The Android Invasion (4 parts)


Arriving on Earth, the time travellers encounter a mysterious village where the telephones don’t work and the calendar never changes, with mysterious figures wandering around. For things are not as they seem and a group of aliens are planning to attack.


Season 13’s only near failure – there are some wonderful scenes here, but also some pretty big plot holes and a rather stupid TARDIS feature we never see again. Reviews of this Terry Nation story (his penultimate one for the show), which features UNIT, but only with Benton and Harry Sullivan from the “family”, have been mixed – the BBC put it with “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” for DVD release, which says a lot.


The Brain of Morbius (4 parts)


A renegade Time Lord who only exists as a disembodied brain wants a new body, so gets a mad scientist to build one for him. All he needs now is a head – at which point the Doctor arrives.


Terrance Dicks wrote this one, but Robert Holmes conducted such a re-write that Dicks asked for his name to removed and replaced by a “bland pseudonym”, so Holmes made sure it went out under the name “Robin Bland”.


This Frankenstein-themed tale is another classic, albeit with some slightly gory scenes (such as the aforementioned bloody shooting that saw a number of the VHS releases heavily edited and more criticism of the show. There’s a controversial “mind-bending” contest between the Doctor and Morbius that appeared to suggest that the Doctor had previous incarnations before Hartnell (which everything else contradicts) and poor Sarah Jane doesn’t have a nice time of it, spending an episode and a half unable to see.


The Seeds of Doom (6 parts)


The Doctor is called in to investigate two mysterious seed pods found in Antarctica. He determines that they are extra-terrestrial and very dangerous. Unfortunately, a plant collector wants the pods for his own collection and the pods are waking up…


A short notice replacement for the not-yet-ready “The Hand of Fear”, this particular story is an action one that features the final appearance of UNIT until 1989, but with none of the regulars. Douglas Camfield does a fine job with the story that features among its guest stars John Challis, who would play used-car salesman Boycie in classic British sitcom Only Fools and Horses[5]. This story also saw the final appearance of the original Peter Brachacki-designed TARDIS prop (contrary to popular legend, not re-used from Dixon of Dock Green[6]) – it had worn out after thirteen years and collapsed on Lis Sladen during production.


The Studios of Doctor Who


This story features a scene filmed at one of the entrances to BBC Television Centre and thus provides an appropriate opportunity to discuss the various TV homes of Doctor Who during its long run.


For the classic era, the show did not have dedicated studio space, having to compete with other BBC productions for it, with its own effects on the show’s production i.e. having to assemble and dis-assemble the TARDIS interior every time they needed it, resulting in entire seasons without a TARDIS scene as the limited budget had to go elsewhere. The following studios have played host to major bits of Doctor Who at some point:

·         Lime Grove, Shepherd’s Bush, London W12 (now demolished) – the original home of the show, which the production crew hated for being cramped, with Newman actually threatening to stop production if he didn’t get better facilities.

·         Riverside, Hammersmith, London W6 (still functioning as TV studios) – home of the show for much of the black-and-white era. The show only appears to have used Riverside 1, the largest of the studios.

·         Ealing Studios, Ealing (still functioning) – a famed location for film and television work, such as the “Ealing comedies”, this was mainly used for model and special effects work or the odd filmed insert due to a ban on the use of video cameras [See the Season 7 entry on film vs. video – Ed.]

·         BBC Television Centre, Shepherd’s Bush, London W12 (due to close in the next couple of years) – an iconic set of studios, TV Centre is for many associated indelibly with the BBC and is partly a listed building. For most of the show’s run, the interior action was filmed here – it even featured in a Doctor Who Magazine comic strip.

·         Unit Q2, Newport – studio for the 2005 season i.e. Season 27/1.

·         Upper Boat, Pontypridd (no longer used for TV) – used from 2006 to 2012, this facility was the dedicated Doctor Who/Torchwood/The Sarah Jane Adventures studio and was the largest studio complex in Wales.

·         Roath Lock, Cardiff – Current home of the show, where Season 33/7 is being filmed. Includes a bridge named after Russell T Davies.

After an initially not brilliant rating for the first story, Season 13 did superbly in the ratings, averaging 10.15 million viewers overall and never dropping below 8 million after “Zygons”. The show continued to be hugely popular in the public eye, with Baker (in costume), Sladen and Marter switching on the Blackpool illuminations in autumn 1975 – David Tennant is the only other Doctor to have done so.


Season 14 would see the show’s long run of success continue, but there would be further changes in front of the camera, as well as behind. For Mary Whitehouse wasn’t going away.

[1]The British version of “Safe Harbour”, it currently prohibits 15-rated material from being shown before 9pm and 18-rated before 10pm. It is regulated by British media watchdog Ofcom as one of their many duties – breaches of the Broadcasting Code can attract fines or even station closures (such as Iran’s Press TV) and are detailed in a fortnightly report. The Broadcasting Code section covering the watershed can be found here.

[2]Who like to take pot shots at one of their biggest rivals, especially in news, on a regular basis.

[3]The BBC at this time disapproved of script editors and producers writing for their own show – Hinchcliffe later secured special permission for Holmes to do two episodes for Season 14.

[4]Running for a total of 30 years from 1978 to 2008, the show became well-known for tackling serious controversial issues such as drug abuse, knife crime and rape where other shows might steer clear.

[5]A John Sullivan-created tale of two South London market traders Derek “Del Boy” Trotter and his brother Rodney, who attempted by various means to get rich, mostly involving dodgy stolen goods, such as sex dolls that turn out to be filled with explosive gas or locked suitcases with the combination inside the case. It ran for seven seasons, had seven more Christmas specials, inspired a spin-off series starring Challis and a prequel series, saw many of its catchphrases become very well-known and is still re-run on cable nets, as well as on BBC1, on a very frequent basis. Any further stuff for this is sadly unlikely following the death of John Sullivan in 2011.

[6]Running from 1955 to 1976, this was a “cosy” cop show set in East London and starring Jack Warner as PC George Dixon (a character who had previously appeared in a 1950 film called The Blue Lamp – where he was killed!), whose catchphrase was “Evening all”. While very popular, Warner’s increasing age and falling ratings led to the show’s end. Most of the 432 episodes are lost, but Dixon’s uniform is on display at the small Metropolitan Police Museum in Fulham, London. Also, a clip from the show features in the final episode of Ashes to Ashes.