- Noises in space really irk me – I know it’s expected of the genre and a show not always known for scientific rigour, but it still irritated me.
- This has to be the first ever Doctor Who episode where the entire guest cast were from an ethnic minority – and it wasn’t even mentioned on screen. For one thing, it was completely irrelevant.
- We got to see some interesting TARDIS rooms, but there was still an awful lot of corridor action.
- The Doctor really doesn’t want people to know his real name, does he?
- Clara (contains Lancashire and sass) was again superb. The revelation of her true identity is going to be a cracking one, that’s for sure. Mind you, if that dress was any shorter we could have ended up with a panty shot.
- For the second time in two episodes, everyone did something that is usually associated with the tales of one Steven Moffat.
- The back and forth between the leads is great; you see that Smith and Coleman have real chemistry.
- The snippets of audio from past Doctors was a lovely touch, as was having the Seventh Doctor’s umbrella make a brief appearance.
- The Van Baalens’ were OK, but not brilliant – I see there have been complaints about their acting on Gallifrey Base.
- Next week looks like it could be rather fun – Diana Rigg in particular.
29 April 2013
Well, it is huge, so it would be a long one... (Review: 'Doctor Who' 33.10, "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS")
27 April 2013
- The regulars are captured excellently; their voices are authentic and you never feel they’re saying things they wouldn’t say.
- There are some superb supporting characters, including a suicidal computer that would not be out of place in a Douglas Adams novel. In fact, this owes a good deal to Adams.
- The timey-wimey plot is done very well indeed – it was planned with the aid of a big diagram for one thing.
- There are a couple of lovely little references to other works – including a mention of Murgatroyd (a cat-like creature from Murray Leinster’s Med Ship series, which I’ve read) and a planet from the Elite computer game.
- There are some slight pacing issues here and there.
- I found some of the plot a little hard to follow and didn’t get one factor of the zombies.
23 April 2013
(I was supposed to have these go up 48 hours after UK airing – my apologies. This will hopefully not happen again)
This one was clearly meant to be a spookier tale and might have been better watched live or late at night; I watched it at 11am on a Sunday morning (day trip), so this might colour my judgement.
· A lot of great dialogue in this between the Doctor and Clara; the “Ghostbusters” joke at the start was brilliant.
· I can’t help but notice there were only five actors in this episode – one of which wore a monster suit.
· Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor was on even better form than usual; he’s great when he’s speaking at a thousand miles a minute, going on tangents in a middle of a sentence.
· Clara was also superb – it’s not escaped attention on Gallifrey Base that her weakest performance was in the episode penned by Steven Moffat, who should be the best at writing her – as he created her!
· I liked the orange spacesuit (which has been worn by the Doctor before), but the Metebelis Three crystal seemed a bit tacked on. When did he get that one?
· The ‘ghost’ had a science fiction explanation – this is common for the show and worked better than if it was an actual ghost.
· The TARDIS Voice Visual Interface was fun for a one-off gag, but let’s not have it too often.
· The Alec and Emma relationship is clearly meant to partner that of the Doctor and Clara – although the names are rather reminiscent of The Avengers or Sapphire and Steel.
· The overall twist was good; but it’s the sort of thing this show has done a lot.
· It’s been a while since we’ve had so much TARDIS travel in a single episode – we didn’t even get an interior scene in last week’s episode.
While there were a lot of enjoyable moments, this kind of lost something towards the end. Not the best ‘spooky’ story by a long chalk.
21 April 2013
What might have been the future of the show…
Previously, we covered the better-known spinoffs from the BBC’s long running science-fiction series, Doctor Who. In this post, we cover some of the lesser-known ones; those that either appeared on that much-loved pornography delivery system or (mostly) on black cassettes…
The BBC’s official Doctor Who website did a number of online “Flash”-style animations over the hiatus years – basically audio dramas with pictures. They can be found here. While other online productions have been made for the new run – such as the TARDISodes from Season 28; these are so linked with on air episodes that they will not be covered separately.
Canonicity from this point in for the EU is a matter for the individual fan.
Death Comes To Time (2001-2, 5 episodes, no longer accessible on BBC site, but able to buy)
Originally pitched for Radio 4 and rejected – this audio starring the Seventh Doctor, Ace and original companion Antimony was instead put online, where it gained over a million visits. The ending of this story renders it non-canon, although it did produce an online spin-off called The Minister of Chance.
Real Time (2002, 6 12-minute episodes)
Involving the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe as they look for two missing survey teams and run into the Cybermen. Notable for debuting a blue version of the Sixth Doctor’s costume (for ease of animation) that got used in the Big Finish continuity as well – for one thing it looks better. An extended version was released on CD.
Shada (2003, 6 25-minute episodes)
A production of the unfinished Fourth Doctor story for the 40th anniversary, changed to feature the Eighth Doctor and Romana II. It’s quite good in fact.
Scream of the Shalka (2003, 6 15-minute episodes)
Another 40th anniversary production, this starred Richard E Grant and Sophie Okendo, the former as what was then pitched as the Ninth Doctor. However, the announcement of the revival two months before this started put its status into question – apart from an online short story and novelisation, no further works were made and the “Shalka Doctor” became non-canon.
Next we go onto the direct-to-video releases that were produced by Reeltime Pictures between 1987 and 2004. The intellectual property of the Whoniverse is a complex affair, with various writers (or more often their estates) part-owning many of the classic monsters and characters of the classic-era show. Reeltime were able to licence various elements of these for original spin-off dramas, albeit with some difficulty. They also produced a series of non-fiction interviews, not covered here.
Many of these are only available on VHS in second-hand stores and I’ve never seen any of these. Runtimes are put when known
The first video spinoff, this one featuring Sergeant Benton (it’s the first to actually give him the first name John). A revised version was released in 1997, adding among other things a voice cameo from the Brigadier.
Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans (1994, 55 minutes)
Set on a space yacht, this features Sophie Aldred and Carole Ann Ford, as well as two regulars from Blake’s 7, this features the Sontarans, albeit redesigned as the design belongs to the BBC (the creatures belong to the Robert Holmes estate).
Featuring the Brigadier, Sarah Jane, Victoria and the Yeti in modern day England.
Mindgame (1998, 30 minutes)
A Draconian, a Sontaran and a human are put in a cell… The unnamed human is played by Sophie Aldred and implied heavily to be Ace.
The Mindgame Trilogy (1999, 80 minutes)
Three short tales featuring the characters of Mindgame after that story.
Dæmos Rising (2004)
The only one to get a DVD release, this tale has the Brigadier’s daughter Kate (later to appear, played by someone else, in “The Power of Three) and the Dæmons.
Finally, we have some more video releases, these ones produced by BBV Productions between 1994 and 2008.
BBV produced a number of works featuring Doctor Who actors playing other roles, including with Colin Baker as “The Stranger”, but that character was later stated to be not the Doctor and TARDIS Data Core (the main Doctor Who wiki and a valuable source for this) excludes many of the dramas from eligibility for articles. Those excluded will not be covered here. In fact, they were never allowed to use the Doctor himself.
Liz Shaw and the Preternatural Research Bureau investigate various things in four films (all with 15 or 18 ratings), that feature a number of regulars from the show in different roles.
Auton trilogy (1997-9)
The Autons face off against UNIT, with all original characters for the latter – Nick Courtney’s health was not up to playing the Brigadier.
Do You Have A Licence to Save This Planet? (2001, 30 minutes)
A comedy spoof featuring Sylvester McCoy as “The Foot Doctor”, released to celebrate BBV’s 10th anniversary.
Zygon: When Being You Just Isn't Enough (2008, 60 minutes)
As the name implies, the Zygons are in this, but this isn’t the most notable thing about the film – it’s the 18 rating it received for nudity, gore and language.
From screen, we now move onto the medium of sound, where the sets are built by your imagination and sound effects…
An elderly history professor, with extensive appearances in audio – this was her sole ‘live’ appearance.
Both would later appear in the Matt Smith era in different parts. David Tennant also makes a cameo appearance.
13 April 2013
This episode has three of my favourite things in it – the Doctor, Russians and submarines… but does the combo work?
I’m pleased to say that it does, so without further ado:
· We get thrown into the plot of this episode rather clearly – there’s not even a TARDIS interior scene here, but in retrospect that works.
· Speaking of the TARDIS, bringing back a system like that seemed a bit contrived to prevent the obvious escape method, but it did raise a laugh or two.
· I thought that the Doctor and Clara would be mistaken for spies and they certainly were…
· Clara was great in this episode, with some excellent lines and a number of great scenes. The Doctor was also on fine form. Let’s hope we have a long partnership between these two and neither move on too quickly.
· We had a lot of funny one-liners in this episode like “Did Ultravox break up?” (they did, but have since reformed)
· The Soviet characters were very well done – with only one ideologue among them, probably a realistic ratio for the USSR. Captain Zhukov in particular earns high praise as we get yet another connection between Doctor Who and Game of Thrones, with Liam Cunningham adding another command under his belt. Grishenko was also great.
· The Ice Warrior design is excellent, although I wasn’t expecting us to get a partial glimpse of an Ice Warrior without his armour on.
· We didn’t get to see some of the real horror for obvious reasons, but our imaginations were able to do the work by the acting.
· I see that the submarine was done with model shots. I thought it was CGI, so well done to the Model Unit.
· We have a deus ex machina resolution, but it works in the context here, unlike certain Russell T Davies’ stories – it’s not like the submarine was exactly repairable.
Funny and horrific in turns, this is a strong contender for best episode of Season 33. Well done Mr Gatiss.
Doctor Who has not just been one single television show since 1963 – not by any means. In this post, the first of mine covering the expanded universe, I will look at the other live-action appearances of our favourite Time Lord.
Firstly, we’ll be going cinematic. While various main continuity Doctor Who movies have been proposed and gotten to various stages (such as the ‘Scratchman’ movie discussed in footnote 3 of this post), only two have actually been made, both starring Peter Cushing as a human inventor called Doctor Who and basically adapting the first two Dalek stories. These films, not considered canon at all, were both intended to cash in on the Dalekmania craze of the mid-1960s. They are aired on British TV from time to time.
Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965)
Doctor Who, his two granddaughters Susan and Barbara, along with the latter’s boyfriend Ian, end up taking TARDIS to a devastated world that is home to the Daleks.
I’ve seen this movie… and I didn't like it. Opinion in fandom appears to be divided over this too.
Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966)
A policeman wanders into TARDIS and ends up going with its crew to 2150 and a Dalek-ruled Earth.
Not seen this one, but it contains a notable star – Bernard Cribbins, who over 40 years later would play Wilfred “Wilf” Mott in the regular TV series. The reviews were not great and the box office wasn’t much better, so a third film was cancelled.
There have been three ‘official’ fictional spin-offs from the show, a fourth not licenced by the BBC and also three non-fictional behind the scenes shows.
“Outside the government, beyond the police…”
A darker and more adult show (sometimes overdoing it, especially early on with the notorious “Day One”) involving a secret British government organisation that salvages alien technology for its own use, focussing on the team based in Cardiff, which just happens to be home to a dimensional rift. After two full seasons and a five-part miniseries (Children of Earth), the BBC teamed up with Starz to co-produce the fourth run called Torchwood: Miracle Day – this was reviewed here. While Russell T Davies produced the show, a good number of scripts for the first two seasons were written by Chris Chibnall, an award-winning writer whose Whoniverse work hasn’t always been up to scratch – he got a very bad rep in fandom as a result.
Evolving from an idea RTD had for an Earth-based sci-fi show, it acquired its name from the anagram of Doctor Who used to disguise tapes of the show. A full discussion of a rather complex show will is one for another time, but as we are here, we had best focus on the show’s lead character….
Box Office Star – Captain Jack Harkness
Introduced in “The Empty Child”, ‘Captain Jack Harkness’ not his real name, is a former con man and Time Agent who loves to see the universe, meet interesting beings and sleep with the good looking ones. After events in “The Parting of the Ways”, he is also immortal – you can kill him, but he keeps coming back to life.
Captain Jack is portrayed by John Barrowman (1967-). Born in Glasgow, Barrowman grew up in Illinois, where he acquired an American accent and matinee idol good looks that have served him well on stage and screen; he started off in the CBBC Saturday morning show Live & Kicking but his television career on both sides of the Atlantic (he has dual nationality) is extensive. He appears to the point of ubiquity on British television (especially in light entertainment), although he has also appeared in Desperate Housewives and more recently the CW’s Arrow. On stage, he frequently does musicals and pantomime – the fact he is openly gay is of course a mere coincidence. He and his sister have also written a number of novels, including Torchwood ones.
The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007-2011)
“13 Bannerman Road is where Sarah Jane Smith lives. And it's home to things way beyond your imagination”.
With Torchwood for adults, The Sarah Jane Adventures (SJA for short) was for children, but not in a pandering way. Set after her appearance in “School Reunion”, this CBBC series focussed on Sarah Jane and a group of teenagers (including her adopted son) fighting threats to Earth from their home in West London. I’ve only seen a few episodes of this – namely the ones where the Doctor (in his tenth and eleventh forms) appeared, which I enjoyed – but the show overall was a ratings and critical success for the CBBC channel.
What ended the show was the death of Lis Sladen. She completed three of the planned six serials of the fifth season before her illness became too much and after her passing, no-one wished to continue. The three recorded stories were aired posthumously.
Sarah Jane's Alien Files (2009-2010)
A spin off of SJA, this was a clip show with extra narration by Alexander Armstrong as Sarah Jane’s computer Mr Smith – its first run was a series of 3-minute webisodes, then it became a half-hour TV series airing after the first part of that week’s story.
Featuring an updated version of K-9 Mark 2 (voiced by John Leeson as before) and set in near-future London, this Australian production is not licenced or produced by the BBC (who don’t own the character, but do own the design, forcing a major change in appearance), instead airing on the Ten Network down under for its first run of 26 thirty-minute episodes. A second series is planned, but no date for it has been announced yet.
I’ve never seen an episode of it, so I can’t comment on quality.
Doctor Who Confidential (2005-2011)
A behind the scenes show that aired after each episode on digital network BBC3, airing 45-minute looks at the particular episode and how it was made, along with interviews etc. Fifteen minute long cut down versions were released on the DVDs (along with extra editions) – for one thing, the full versions had extensive use of music that would have required rights clearances.
Rated in a poll as the best BBC3 show of all time (ahead of Torchwood and the original British version of Being Human), this popular and well-made show fell to budget cuts in 2011 amid considerable fan protest, although the official website for the show still airs mini behind the scenes videos for each episode.
Totally Doctor Who (2006-7)
In essence a junior version of Confidential, with added competitions and so on that ran on the CBBC channel with Seasons 28 and 29. It also played host to an animated serial in its second and final season, “The Infinite Quest”, which will be covered in Season 29’s article. It was canned in favour of The Sarah Jane Adventures as the CBBC budget did not cover both. I watched it and found it OK, but I don’t miss it.
A 10-minute behind the scenes show that aired after each episode of the first two runs of Torchwood – the first one on BBC3, the second on BBC2. A 30-minute version for “Children of Earth” was released with the DVD.
These were not the only video appearances of the Whoniverse. In our next edition, we cover the lesser known spinoffs – those that appeared online or only on home video.
Originally a one-shot character for “Voyage of the Damned”, Wilf was elevated to the position of Donna Noble’s maternal grandfather after the death of Howard Attfield in 2007 – Attfield had played Donna’s father in “The Runaway Bride”, but died after filming several scenes for “Partners in Crime” – these were redone with Cribbins. As Wilf is the effective companion in David Tennant’s final story, Cribbins holds the clear record for oldest person to play a companion – although he is not the oldest living regular DW actor, a title currently held by William Russell (Ian Chesterton).
Another spin-off for Rose Tyler, called Rose Tyler: Earth Defender, which would have covered Rose’s adventures on the parallel Earth she ended up in after “Doomsday” actually got to budgeting stage before Russell T Davies decided this was a spin-off too far and canned the project.
I am not counting the pilot-only K-9 and Company, covered elsewhere.
The show is in indefinite hiatus – Russell T Davies had to return to the UK for personal reasons and is currently only working on CBBC show Wizards vs. Aliens.
Although he can switch to Scottish easily.
Which has also featured Alex Kingston.
You cannot really accuse the BBC’s prolific content for children of this – many of its shows have handled mature issues with aplomb and I personally will never forget the death of one particular Byker Grove character.
It also did not air on the Beeb, instead making its first British appearance on Disney XD and then a terrestrial airing on Channel 5.
08 April 2013
You may mourn or cheer, but you will have been impacted by a colossus of world politics.
The crude oil tanker Omala moored in Rotterdam (image: Danny Cornelissen)
Slowly, but surely… This is a fairly short one.
Day four in this war began with 37 more Iranian fighters becoming available for operations. With a total of 92 now able to take to the skies, Iran raised alerts across the board, conducting combat air patrol and placing forces on alert, especially around Isfahan.
No American airstrike was available this turn, but Israel completed its planning for a strike on the zirconium plant at Isfahan, ordering it for later that day with the F-15 and one F-16 unit tasked for the operations.
How big a strike is possible is down to the availability of tankers to get the planes over the distance.
Iran offered a reduction in oil prices to China and some neutral countries, slightly changing their viewpoints on the situation in the classic manner. However, Israeli evidence of covert Iranian activity and some staged anti-Israeli protests in New York failed to have any impact.
Iran was still behind and to cap it all, 62 of their jets broke down.
Bad roll on the breakdown table and a lot of units on alert status or patrol brought this about… what will it mean for the Israeli strike next turn?
06 April 2013
This second episode sees Clara leave Earth and go to a festival on an alien world, where an old god is waking up…
This rather reminded me of “The Beast Below”, Amy’s second story, which took place in a similarish environment, although this one did not involve space whales. It was not as good either – so without further ado.
· The introduction with the leaf and Clara’s parents was well done.
· Matt Smith is good here as usual, but he’s not at his best and some of his Time Lord grandstanding seems a bit unconvincing.
· Really liking Clara – she’s sweet, caring and intelligent, with a strong backstory.
· They really threw the budget at all the aliens this week, many of whom were only seen in the background.
· I’m assuming that moped had some form of force field to protect against hard vacuum.
· Speaking of force fields, the sonic screwdriver should be limited in use and not serve as a get out for all situations – opening the door was enough for it this episode.
· The main monsters were respectively CGI or spent most of an episode banging against something.
· Was all of that singing really necessary?
· Losing that object is going to do something interesting to the ring system – it’s got nothing to orbit.
· I found this episode dragged considerably – some people might even have fallen asleep during it.
I didn’t expect much and I didn’t get much – this is a forgettable episode.
By the end, you might be wishing these people were exterminated
This movie got made in the first place.
The Bank Holiday weekend saw not only the launch of a new run of TV Doctor Who but also Channel 5 airing the first of the two Doctor Who cinema movies. Starring Peter Cushing as a human inventor called ‘Doctor Who’, these two films were adaptations of the first two Dalek stories, released in 1965 and 1966 (a third film was planned but cancelled after the second, Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. didn’t do well enough at the box office).
In essence, these two films, not considered canon by Who fans, were attempts to cash-in on the popularity of the Daleks – and this one is a pretty dire cash-in at that…
The ‘howl around’ title sequence and the Grainer theme are not used in this. We instead get some kaleidoscope-esque close-up zoom of something and the sort of music you’d smoke cannabis to (not that I would know). It’s pretty forgettable.
The ‘dramatic’ music is pretty overblown at times, serving little to enhance the story. The Dalek voices are a bit lacking – it takes more than a ring modulator to do an effective Dalek voice.
As an 82-minute adaptation of a TV story that runs to about 175 minutes, a good deal has to be cut out. This story also has to introduce the characters and it does so in a rather short manner – Ian turns up at his girlfriend Barbara’s house, meets her grandfather Doctor Who and ends up in TARDIS (yes, that’s what it’s called here) in less than ten minutes. They end up on Skaro, not named here and the Doctor removes the ‘fluid link’ so they can go have a look at the city…
This is ultimately a very basic plot – there are no big twists, but there is a very strange stretch of time, in which the events of the climax can’t really have taken place in the hour the Daleks are supposed to take to set up a neutron bomb… It’s of course based on Nation’s script, but we do get some rather quick jumps around.
The very final scene is really very silly.
Direction and staging
This movie had a budget of £180,000 (about $275,000 at the then exchange rate and about £3m adjusted for inflation) and it seems to have gone into the set – a much larger and better realised affair than the TV series could have aspired to at this point (or indeed at most points in its run). This is shot on Technicolor (and widescreen) and is the best bit of the film.
However, the director seems to have missed some obvious tricks – we don’t get a version of the classic first introduction of the Daleks (the eyestalk view), with several of the creatures merely turning up all at once to capture the time travellers.
A final note here – the TARDIS design is the inspiration for the current prop; the St. John’s Ambulance logo is taken directly from it.
No-one from the TV series reprises their roles here – and all of the characters get changed, not for the better…
· Peter Cushing’s ‘Doctor Who’ tries and fails to channel Hartnell – the Doctor as a mere human eccentric does not work for me and while he has small moments of charm, Cushing is wasted in the part.
· Susan gets turned from a teenager into some pre-pubescent precocious kid who just irritates in the worst possible manner.
· Ian goes from clever heroic teacher to bumbling klutz, who starts by tripping over and doesn’t get much better from there. He gets some physical action, but not a great deal of it. He’s played by the late Roy Castle, far better known as a jazz trumpeter (his playing in smoky clubs was attributed to his death from cancer – he didn’t smoke himself) and TV presenter. It’s clear from this performance that he was never going to be a successful actor and that sticking to presenting was wise.
· Barbara gets a perm that you could use in lieu of a crash helmet, but is otherwise completely forgettable.
The “guest cast”
The Thals are pretty all badly acted and uninspiring. The pacifists who the Doctor persuades to fight are the weakest element of the original story and they are arguably much worse here. Their costumes look stupid and their delivery is clipped.
The problem that writers of the show have had over the years is how to make the Daleks menacing without going to extremes – because logically if one Dalek can take out most of an underground facility and then only be stopped because it commits suicide, ten could take out a city… but you can go too far the other way, like this movie. The Daleks here only manage to exterminate one person (the extermination effect couldn’t be done on film, so they are instead equipped with ‘deadly’ smoke guns) and in fact most of them end up killing each other because they’re so easy to move around.
Useless, utterly useless – and they don’t even say “Exterminate”.
While not the worst film I’ve ever seen, this is a dire work with the set design the only real redeeming feature. That should be good as a matter of course, so I can only give this…
I won’t bother with the ‘sequel’.