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Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Doctor Who 50-50: Part 3 - 1965 part 1 (January - June)



'There's something new in you and yet something older than the sun'
 -Princess Joanna to the Doctor, The Wheel of Fortune (The Crusade part 3)

Note:  Because there is so much to write about for 1965 I've decided to split it into two parts, with part 2 to come later this week.

 On Screen

1965 was the Year of the Daleks.  As you'll see if you read on, Dalekmania - which had first flourished in the latter half of 1964 - was in full flow here.  Perhaps wisely, though the Doctor Who production team chose to limit the Daleks' appearances in the series.  Of the 46 episodes produced in this year the Daleks only appear in 13 of them and fans would have to almost six months to see them back on their TV screens.

In the meantime, change was in the air.  Susan had left and so too had the first script editor, David Whitaker, although he would still be involved with the series, writing serveral scripts including the story that followed on from Susan's departure: The Rescue.

 'The Rescue' feels like a turning point for the series and for the character of the Doctor as well.  First and foremost this is the story that introduces the character of Vicki to the series who becomes a sort of surrpogate granddaughter to the Doctor.  However she's not Susan clone.  I've often felt that Susan never really enjoyed her travels.  In 'An Unerthly Child' for instance, she says that the five months she spent at school in 1963 were the happiest of her life and in other stories she talks wistfully of her home and thoughts of settling down.



Vicki, on the other hand, seems to revel in her adventures.  In some stories she seems more eager to explore than the Doctor himself!  Perhaps the reason for this enthusiasm is that, when we first meet her, she has been marooned for some time in a wrecked spaceship on a dead planet with just one other person - the somewhat shady Mr Bennett - for company.  So it's perhaps not surprising that she jumps at the chance to escape her old life.


Vicki joins the crew

This story is also significant as we finally see the Doctor emerge as the hero that we're used to seeing.  At the story's conclusion, the Doctor confronts the villain of the piece - Mr Bennett - in the first of many such confrontations over the years.  It's interesting to see this particular Doctor being so proactive as, up to now, he's often been seen on the sidelines rather than taking centre stage.

After rescuing Vicki, the TARDIS takes a trip (and a drop off a cliff) to Ancient Rome.  'The Romans' is thr first out-and-out comedy in Doctor Who although, admittedly, it's not all played for laughs.  

There are three seperate storylines here: Ian's, Barbara's and the Doctor and Vicki's.  Taking the notion that all roads lead to Rome, the TARDIS crew splits up early on in the story and each end up making their own way to the fabled city by very different routes.

It's the Doctor and Vicki who get the lion's share of the comedy.  The Doctor ends up adopting the identity of a lyre player (who as it turns out was also a paid assassin) and he spends much of the story trying to avoid both playing the lyre in front of Nero or causing the assassination of the Emperor.  Also, much to his own amusment, the Doctor ends up being the inspiration for the great fire of Rome. 

If 'The Romans' was an experiment in comedy then the next story, 'The Web Planet', is another experiment, this time in creating a truly alien world.



The 'web planet' in question is Vortis a world in which none of the inhabitants are even vaguely human.  The closest we come to a humanoid species is the butterfly-like Menoptra and even they use unusual speech patterns and hand gestures to make them appear more alien.  Along with the Menoptra we have the larvae-like Optera, the ant-like Zarbi and the villainous Animus which is nothing more than an evil alien entity than a physical being.  In addition, the camera lens was covered with vaseline during filming in order to give the surface of the planet a more ethereal, alien atmosphere.  It's an interesting experiment although whether it entirely works is debatable.  Certainly it's notable that something like this isn't really attempted again.

It's back down to Earth in 'The Crusade' as the TARDIS crew travel to Palestine during the Crusades.  Like previous historical stories we get to meet more real historical figures - in this case the leaders of the two sides in this conflict, Richard the Lionheart and Saladin.


Even now, in 2012, this comes across as a respectful portrayal of what was a very bloody and violent conflict.  Both sides are portrayed in shades of grey with neither one being depicted as being necessearilly right or wrong in this conflict.  Both leaders are shown to be men of great principle, each respecting the other, both wanting nothing more than peace but both ultimately realising that great sacrifices will have to be made to achieve this.

'The Space Museum' is yet another experiment of sorts - the first story to really play around with the idea of time travel and the notion of being able to change your own future.

The TARDIS arrives at a space museum (hence the title of the story) but jumps a 'time-track' meaning that the crew arrive before the are meant to and are therefore able to see their own futures, which are not pleasant.  Once time has caught up with the travellers, they have to try to change the future and avoid being turned into museum exhibits.

Other than the 'changing the future' idea this is a farily standard story but it is nice to see them experiment with the familiar format.  Plus it's fun seeing the Doctor pretend to be a Dalek.


Speaking of Daleks: yes they're finally back in 'The Chase' - the penultimate story of season 2 and the last story of the first half of the year.  This is also Ian and Barbara final story.

The story does pretty much what it says on the tin: the Daleks build their own time machine and chase the Doctor and his companions across time and space.  The chase takes in variety of locations including the Empire State Building, the Mary Celeste and Dracula's Castle before coming to an end on the planet Mechenus.

It's here that we encounter the Mechenoids, large spherical robots that were originally intended to be major rivals to the Daleks, both within the TV series and also in terms of popularlity with the viewers.  Sadly for the Mechenoids, fame was elusive as the viewing public didn't take to them and this was destined to be their only appearance - on TV at least.  One the plus side they did beat the Daleks in an epic battle at the conclusion of 'The Chase' so it wasn't all bad.

Daleks vs Mechanoids
 This is also where we say goodbye to Ian and Barbara who, after two years of travelling with the Doctor, finally return to their own time using the Daleks' own time machine.  It's a sad moment when the Doctor bids farewell to the last of his original companions.  Although they two schoolteachers entered his life as unwanted guests, they leave very much as friends.  And so the Doctor continues his travels with just Vicki for company.  Or so he thinks...



On Audio

The first half of1965 saw two Doctor Who-related record released, not surprisingly both were connected to the Daleks

The first is 'Landing of the Daleks', released in February by a musical group called The Earthlings.  It's an instrumental piece that is really rather catchy.  It's only real connection to the Daleks though is that it includes a morse code message that warns of the Daleks imminant landing.

According to Mark Ayres, who wrote the sleeve notes to a CD re-release of this and other such musical oddities, a different version of this tune was played on the radio.  This was because the morse code message included the letters 'SOS'.  At the time SOS could only be broadcast on radio during a genuine emergency so a slightly amended morse code was used in the track played on the radio. 

Dance of the Daleks by The Jack Dorsey Orchestra was released in June.  Like 'Landing of the Daleks' this was an instrumental piece and it also had little real connection to Doctor Who or the Daleks beyond having the word 'Daleks' in the title.  Another catchy piece of music, though. 


In Print

Perhaps surprisingly, no Doctor Who books at all were published in the first half of 1965.  


In Comics

Over in TV Comic, the adventures of Dr Who John and Gillian continued.  The strip wasn't afraid to mix sci-fi with fantasy (something that the TV series hadn't really done up to that point) as we see the TARDIS crew go from battling the likes of space pirates in 'The Hijackers of Thrax' to venturing into the fantasy kingdom of the Pied Piper of Hamlin in 'Challenge of the Piper'.

One particularly notable story was 'On the Web Planet' which, as it's title implies involved the TARDIS once again landing on the planet Vortis as had recently been seen on TV.  Both the Menoptra and the Zarbi were back too  This was the first time that the comic strip had ever used a location or characters from the TV series other than the Doctor himself.



Meanwhile, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Daleks has become popular enough to get their own comic strip.  They debuted in a one-page strip in the pages of TV 21, a glossy comic aimed at a higher age group than TV Comic, and in full colour to boot.

The initial story portrayed the creation of the Daleks - a very different genesis of the daleks to what will later be portrayed on television - and the creation of the first Dalek Emperor, a character who will not appear on TV for another couple of years.  The following three stories in the first half of 1965 deal with the Daleks exploration of their own planet and their initial attempts to  conquer the galaxy.



Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Doctor Who 50-50: Part 2 - 1964



'Goodbye, Susan. Goodbye, my dear.'
 - The Doctor, Flashpoint (The Dalek Invasion of Earth part 6)

On Screen

1964 was bookended by Daleks.   On TV at least.  If you look further down this post you'll see that, in other mediums, they were bloody everywhere. But, as 1964 began, the Daleks had only been in existence for a couple of weeks and I doubt anyone knew how popular they'd become or now quickly.



It's hard to say what exactly it was that made them so popular.  Was it the grating voice, the fact that the Daleks were so utterly ruthless or just that they looked like nothing else that had been on TV at the time?  Most likely it was a combination of these factors although I'd like to think that the story itself also helped to cement the Daleks', and indeed Doctor Who's, popularity.

The fact is that 'The Daleks' is a nice, straight-forward, science-fiction adventure story with clear-cut bad guys (the Daleks) and good guys (the peace loving Thals plus the Doctor and co).  That said, the Doctor is still a bit of git here, more concerned with his own and Susan's safety than with helping the Thals.  It's Ian who takes the heroic lead role.  The Doctor is very much a background figure here, coming up with a few good ideas here and there to help out.  But for the most part he's still a scientist and explorer first and a (reluctant) hero second.  That will start to change by the end of the year.

It's interesting that after just 3 months or so on screen Doctor Who had managed to show how much range it had.  We went from caveman politics in 'An Unearthly Child' to adventure serial in 'The Daleks' to the next story in the series 'Edge of Destriction' which is just plain bizarre.

'Edge of Destruction' (written by then script editor David Whitaker) was, and indeed still is. the only story set entirely within the TARDIS.  It begins with an explosion that knocks the TARDIS crew out and causes them, initially, to lose their memories.  As they begin to regain their memories the crew start to believe, first, that something is in the TARDIS with them and then they start to turn on each other.

That alone would be enough for most stories  But then the weird stuff starts happening.  We have melting, clock faces, weird noises, the TARDIS doors opening and closing  of their own accord, mysterious images on the scanner and a lot of shouting and screaming,  Truthfully, the explanation for all this weirdness is a bit disappointing (a broken switch on the console? Really?) but the story does bring the travellers together as friends and the Doctor starts to mellow.  The stage is very much set for the rest of the season.

Up next is 'Marco Polo' which, as the title suggests, featured the first instance of the Doctor and his friends meeting a real historical figure.  They join Marco and his caravan on his long trek from the Himalayas to China, after he confiscates the Doctor's 'flying caravan', intending to give it to Kublai Khan as a gift.  In TV time, the story takes 7 episodes. From the characters point of view though it's closer to 7 months travelling, one of the longest period that the Doctor has ever spent in one place in the series.

The Doctor, Marco Polo and Kublai Khan: three historical figures

Because of the length and nature of the story you really do grow fond of Marco and the other members of his caravan and it's rather sad when they eventually reach China and the time comes for the TARDIS crew to finally be on their way once more.

'The Keys of Marinus' (a rare non-Dalek story by Terry Nation) also involves the TARDIS crew doing a lot of travelling although this time by faster means than in the previous story.

'The Keys of Marinus' is the first example of a 'quest' story in Doctor Who - basically, a story that involves the Doctor searching for something, usually against the clock.  Here, the Doctor is searching for the keys to the 'Conscience of Marinus', a giant machine that will serve to halt an invasion from the rather odd looking Voord.

One of these actors was in 'Citizan Kane'


That said, it's actually the Doctor's companions that do most of the searching.  William Hartnell took two weeks off during the making of this story and doesn't appear in two episodes meaning that it's down to the rest of the TARDIS crew to find two of the four missing keys. When he does return towards the end of the story, Hartnell seems all the better for his holiday.  The Doctor firmly takes centre stage and, for arguably the first time, the Doctor becomes the heroic figure that we're all so used to as he fights to free an unjustly imprisoned Ian in the closing episodes.

 'The Aztecs' - written by John Lucarotti who also wrote 'Marco Polo' -  is very much a Barbara-centric story as she struggles with impersonating an Aztec goddess and the responsibilities that entails.  We also get the first instance of someone attempting to change Earth's history.  Barbara is aware that the Aztecs are going to be wiped out by the Spanish because they see the Aztecs as bloodthirsty barbarians.  Barbara wants to stop human sacrifices in the hope that the Aztecs will be looked on more favourably in the future and won't be destroyed.  It's down to the Doctor to teach her that "You can't change history! Not one line!"  It's a harsh lesson for Barbara as she realises that she cannot change a whole civilisation


And it's not just her that's goes through the emotional wringer in this story.  The Doctor himself is involved in a very tender 'romance' with an Aztec lady named Cameca to whom he inadvertently becomes engaged.  Eventually, of course, the Doctor is forced to leave her behind but, even though their relationship is brief, the viewer is left in no doubt that the Doctor has been affected by the encounter.  It's safe to say to that the ending of this particular story is somewhat downbeat.


The penultimate story of the first season is 'The Sensorites' which takes us back to the future and a mysterious planet known as the Sense-Sphere.  This time it's Susan who takes centre-stage as her encounters with the alien Sensorites causes some long-dormant mental powers to come to the fore. This story also, whether intentional or not, seems to be sowing the seeds for Susan's departure as she starts to wander what it would be like to stop travelling and settle down somewhere.

One of these Sensorites was in 'Crackerjack'
And so we reach the end of the first season with 'The Reign of Terror', another trip back into history, this time to the French Revolution.  In this instance, though, the Revolution would not be televised with most of it happening off-screen, although we do meet two more important historical figures in Napoleon and Robespierre.

The Revolution, though, is really the backdrop for the main story, which sees the Doctor's companions involved in a spy-plot and sees them all, at one point or another being imprisoned in the Conciergerie prison in Paris.  The Doctor, mostly working alone  here, uses a disguise for the first time in order to help his friends out of their predicament.



So with the Doctor and his companions reunited once again they leave the French Revolution behind and fly off into the unknown, ending the first season after 42 episodes.  Less than 2 months later, on 31 October 1964, they were back for the start of season 2, kicking off with Planet of Giants.

The story features the TARDIS and it's crew being miniaturised by accident when they land in present day England.  The crew in their miniaturised form manage to stop an immoral businessman from manufacturing a form of insecticide that is dangerous to all forms of life, including human beings.  It's a very slight story that, if the Doctor and co were at full size, would probably be wrapped up in five minutes.  As it is the story takes 3 episodes.  Fortunately the gimmick of a tiny TARDIS crew plus the highly impressive 'giant' sets help to gloss over the story's shortcomings.

And so we reach the final story of 1964 and, yes as promised, the Daleks are back this time invading Earth.  Given their popularity it was probably inevitable that they would return and the fact that they are on Earth, albeit an Earth of the 23rd Century, makes it all the more exciting. Their reason for invading the Earth is somewhat silly but everyone takes it so seriously that you can't help but be dragged into the drama of it.



Along the way everyone goes through the wringer, none more so than the TARDIS crew, and in the end the Doctor is forced to make an ultimate sacrifice:



This scene shows, for me, how far the Doctor has come in this past year.  At the beginning of 1964 I couldn't have imagined him making the sort of emotional speech that he gives here.

So the year ends on a downbeat note.  Susan, the last link with his family, is gone but the Doctor still has two friends (and they are his friends now) with him and many more adventures ahead.

 On Audio

After just a year on air, Doctor Who was blessed with its first novelty record.  In fact there were two although one was more of a Dalek novelty record than a Doctor Who one.

The first of these was a recording of the Doctor Who theme tune, released by the BBC.  Releasing the theme tune as a record would become a regular occurrence in later years whenever the theme tune was re-arranged for TV.  This was essentially the same tune as was heard every week on the programme, albeit with a few slight alternations.  I imagine that most people who bought the record at the time wouldn't have been able to tell the difference.

The second record is one of the earliest attempts by someone to shamelessly cash-in on the popularity of the Daleks.  I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas with a Dalek by the Go-Gos was released in late 1964, not surprisingly just in time for Christmas.  Needless to say it didn't make the Christmas Number 1 spot and the Go-Gos were soon gone-gone.

As, at the time of writing it's just a week or two to Christmas, I've included the song here for you all to enjoy.

You're welcome.





In Print

Book-wise things slowly began to take off in 1964.  Two books were released this year and, perhaps not surprisingly, both were Dalek related.  Yes, the country was in the early stages of Dalekmania.

The first of these books was The Dalek Book written by Dalek creator Terry Nation and TV writer and Doctor Who script editor David Whittaker.  I must confess that this is one book that I don't own but from the research that I've been able to do, it appears to be a very interesting book.


The book contains the first examples of any original fiction based on the TV series.  Through a mixture of comic strips and short stories it details the Daleks' attempted invasion of the Solar System and the actions of three siblings, Jeff, Andy and Mary Stone, to stop them.  The Doctor himself doesn't appear although Susan does, in a short photo-comic strip that uses photos from the first Dalek TV story to tell a brand new tale.  The whole book sounds genuinely fascinating, from an historical point of view if nothing else.

The other book published in 1964 was the equally historically significant novelisation of the first Dalek story, again written by David Whittaker. The publication of Doctor Who and the Daleks (or, to give it its full title: Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks) marked the beginning of a long tradition of novelising almost all of the television stories.

  On TV of course, 'The Daleks' was the second story of the series so introductions to the main characters weren't required.  But, as this was the first ever novelisation, Whitaker chose to re-write the beginning of the story in order to introduce new readers to the TARDIS crew.  These early chapters, ignore events as they were portrayed 'An Unearthly Child' and instead come up with something very different.  Gone is Ian and Barbara following Susan home to an old junkyard.  Instead  we have a foggy Barnes Common, a car accident and a mysterious old man with everlasting matches.

The rest of the book is fairly faithful re-telling of events in 'The Daleks' - the only novelisation, incidentally, to be written in the first-person.  There are a few embellishments however, most notably the introduction of a glass Dalek which houses the Dalek's overall leader.  A glass or see-through Dalek won't appear in the TV series until the 1980s and the notion of a Dalek ruler such as this one is also something that we won't see for a few years on TV and then it will appear in a story written by Whitaker himself.

In Comics

At this point in time the notion of dedicated Doctor Who comic was a something that would not become reality until many years in the future.  So it fell to other titles to publish comic strips based on the series.  The first of these titles was 'TV Comic',

'TV Comic' was aimed at a very young child audience while it's fair to say that Doctor Who on TV was aimed at a slightly older audience.  Having a Doctor Who comic strip in TV Comic, then was always going to be a slightly odd fit.

Nevertheless on 16 November 1964, almost a year after the start of the TV series, the first comic strip appeared in the pages of TV Comic, running in weekly 2-page instalments.  The first story was called 'The Klepton Parasites' with art by Neville Main.  Conspicuous by their absence were Ian, Barbara and Susan.  They were replaced with the Doctor's (apparently) other grandchildren, John and Gillian,  Much like Ian and Barbara, the two children encounter the Doctor in a junkyard and are inadvertently whisked off into time and space.  Strangely, the children are not too bothered by this turn of events.


Much of the rest of the story seems to be inspired by 'The Daleks'.  the villainous Kleptons spend most of the their time inside their hidden city and can only venture outside in protective machines where they kidnap members of the peaceful Thain race who also inhabit the planet.  They Doctor and his companions have to break into the city to deal with the Kleptons and restore peace to the world.



There are two other important things to note with this strip.  First, the Doctor is referred to as 'Doctor Who' throughout and will be called this throughout the long life of the comic strip.  Secondly, 'Dr Who' is far more bloodthirsty and ruthless here than his TV counterpart.  Witness the following example:

This is something that will crop up time and again in the strip and is often very much at odds with the character as portrayed on screen.

This particular strip, at nine episodes, ran well into 1965 so we'll return to look at the further comic strip adventures of Dr Who, John and Gillian then. 





Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Doctor Who 50-50: Part 1 - 1963



'If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds, and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you?'
 - The Doctor, The Cave of Skulls 


On Screen
As 1963 opened, Doctor Who was but a glint in a Canadian's eye.  By the end of the year, the first six episodes had been shown (although an untransmitted Pilot episode was also filmed) and the programme's march to becoming a British Institution was underway.

Sydney Newman: The Great Architect
That Canadian, Sydney Newman, had just become Head of Drama at the BBC at the beginning of 1963 and he hit upon the idea of having a science-fiction drama serial to show on a Saturday afternoon after Grandstand.  Although  Newman is often credited as sole creator of the series, he wasn't the only one involved.  BBC Head of Serials, Donald Wilson and writers C.E. Webber and Anthony Coburn, amongst others, all contributed ideas to the concept and Coburn wrote the first four episodes.




Verity Lambert: Pioneering Producer
One thing that Sydney Newman did do was to appoint the young and inexperienced Verity Lambert as the show's first producer.  It was Lambert who really shaped the show.  Amongst other things it was she who hired William Hartnell to play the Doctor and who allowed Terry Nation to write a story about a group of evil alien monsters call Daleks; in hindsight two huge decisions that helped to ensure the series popularity in the those early days.

The Pilot episode was filmed in September 1963 and would have been the first episode broadcast had Sydney Newman not seen it first.  Has was unimpressed to say the least and ordered for the episode to be re-made.  For the most part this was to remove technical issues like cameras bumping into the set and doors not closing properly, but  the script was also amended to make the Doctor more likable and a bit less of a bastard.

The first episode - 'An Unearthly Child' - was ultimately transmitted on 23 November 1963, a date that is probably etched on the minds of most Doctor Who fans.  Although the first four episodes of the series are collectively known as 'An Unearthly Child' or sometimes '100,000 BC', it's hard not to look at them as two separate stories, a one episode introduction to the series and the main characters, followed by three episodes set in the stone age.

And who are the main characters as the series opens?  Well, aside from the Doctor himself of course, there's his grand daughter Susan (the 'Unearthly Child' of the opening episode) and two of her school teachers, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright.  These two are arguably the two most important characters in the entire history of the series as, if not for them, there would be no series.  It's their insatiable curiosity and concern for Susan's welfare that leads them to meet the Doctor in the first place and results in him effectively them and taking off in the TARDIS.  If not for them things might have turned out very differently.

Ian, Susan, Barbara and the Doctor: the first TARDIS crew


As I mentioned above, the first proper adventure for the TARDIS following the introductory episode is a three episode Stone Age story which is most notable for showing us the only instance of the Doctor smoking (being more of a pipe than a cigarette man).  Interestingly he seems to give up the habit after it leads to him being hit on the head by a caveman.  He clearly realised that smoking really was bad for your health.



The other notable point of this story is the scene where the Doctor picks up a rock with the apparent intention of smashing in a caveman's skull.  When challenged by Ian he denies this but the way this sequence is shot seems to suggest otherwise.  We may never know what the Doctor's true intentions were but already the series was showing that the character was rather more complex than he first appeared.

After escaping the Stone Age, the TARDIS fetches up on an apparently dead planet where, in the dying days of 1963, viewers witnessed the introduction of possibly the most iconic characters in the series after the Doctor himself.  I refer of course to the Daleks.  Their first full appearance is in 'The Survivors', the episode broadcast on 28th December 1963, but we catch a brief glimpse of a Dalek in the preceding episode in what is now considered a classic cliffhanger.



And so that is Doctor Who for 1963.  As the year ends, the Doctor, Ian and Barbara are captive in the Dalek city, dying of radiation poisoning with Susan the only one who can save them.  What will happen next? Tune in next week to find out...







Saturday, 8 December 2012

The Doctor Who 50-50: Introduction


Well, the 23rd November 2012 has been and gone which means that the countdown to the fiftieth anniversary has well and truly begun.  To celebrate this, I decided that I wanted to try and do something that would celebrate Doctor Who, in all its various forms.  And thus I present the Doctor Who 50-50.

The intention is to give a overview of Doctor Who's long history, covering one year each week in the run up to the Anniversary.  So: fifty years in fifty weeks, with the intending of putting up a new post every weekend.  (In actual fact it's fifty-one weeks from 1963 to 2013, with the final part being posted on the Anniversary weekend itself but calling it 'The 50-50' is quite catchy and I didn't really want to change it.)

This is quite a large and ambitious project because, as I say, I want to try and cover Doctor Who in all its various forms, not just the TV series.  Obviously the TV series is hugely important but I didn't want to ignore everything else.  After all, technically, it's not the television series that reached it's fiftieth anniversary but the character and the idea itself.

To that end, each overview will be split into several different section:

On Screen: What will probably be the largest section for most of the fifty weeks, as the title suggests, this will detail what was happening in the television series at the time.  The two Peter Cushing Dalek films will also appear here as will the various spin-offs

On Audio:  Although this section will be particularly busy during the 00's thanks to Big Finish, there are plenty of other radio plays, CDs and records that have been produced over the years and are worth a mention.  All of that will be included here.

In Print:  Again, fairly self-explanatory, all manner of books and magazines will get a mention here.

In Comics:  Comics strips and comic books.  I've kept this separate from the other print material as the comic strip has a lengthy history all of its own (a comic strip of some form has been running since 1964) and I didn't feel I could do that justice without giving it its own category.

Elsewhere:  Basically anything else I can think of that's relevant or interesting which doesn't fit into any of the above categories.

So, that's the idea and that's the format I've decided to take.  Hopefully it won't all fall apart in two weeks and I'll be able to keep this going to the end.  I'm also bound to make a few mistakes or accidentally leave things out but I intend to be as exhaustive as I possibly can.  If I do make any mistakes, though, please feel free to correct me.

Anyway, join me tomorrow as we begin our marathon with 1963.


Thursday, 8 November 2012

Bush Tucker Trial of a Time Lord


 Sadly, not a genuine magazine cover

Possibly my favourite Who-related news story of the year was the 'shock' revelation that Colin Baker was going to be part of this year's 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here'.  Like a lot of these things it was a poorly kept secret.  Colin did his best to hide the truth but when he was photographed at Heathrow on Monday the cat was pretty much out of the bag.

Now I'm not a regular viewer of 'I'm a Celebrity' (it's not that I particularly dislike it you understand - I just can't stand Ant and/or Dec) but I really want Colin to do well here.  And I really do think he can.  In these sorts of programmes it's usually the people that just be themselves who do the best.  Colin seems to be a 'what you see is what you get' kind of person and he's always struck me as a very likable kind of guy who does his best to get on with everyone.  He's also got a big personality which should hopefully help him stand out from the crowd. 

I'd also like Colin to do well because this is something that I believe he has genuinely wanted to do for some time.  Regular followers of his Twitter feed will know how much he enjoys his Reality TV and he's said in the past that he'd like to do I'm a Celeb.  Unlike some previous contestants, Colin is no fool.  He's knows exactly what he's getting into and what's expected of him so I think he'll want to make the most of the experience.  I hope he gets the chance to do that. 

Will I be watching?  Probably not.  Even the promise of Colin Baker isn't enough to dilute the pain of sitting through an Ant and Dec piece to camera.  But I'll keep an eye on his progress nevertheless.  Good luck Colin!


Only a slight improvement on his 6th Doctor outfit

Monday, 8 October 2012

Series 7a Review: The Angels Take Manhattan

It's been over a week since the Ponds disappeared from our screen - quite literally - and I've been mulling over my opinions of it.  And I've really struggled to come up with anything much to say other than: it was great.

On the one hand you think that it shouldn't work.  The whole episode seems to be a collection of Steven Moffat's Greatest Hits.  All of the best bits of his previous episodes seem to crop up somewhere here.  Let's run down the list:

i) River Song.  Hardly a great surprise to see her here in Amy and Rory's final appearance given her relationship with them.

ii) The Weeping Angels.  Easily Moffatt's greatest monster creations.  A very simple idea well executed which is probably why they've proven so popular.


iii) The Doctor reading about his own future.  Obviously there's the whole 'wrist breaking scene' in this episode.  Similarly, the Doctor has a transcript of his entire conversation with Sally Sparrow in the Angel's first episode, 'Blink'.

iv) Rory and Amy die - and then come back to life and then die again.  Or in Rory's case: dies, lives, dies, lives dies.  Yes he finally hits the hat-trick.  Honestly, I've lost count the number of times that they've killed one or other of them off during the past two and a half years.  I would say that we might not see that with the new girl only they appear to have killed her off before she's even made her first official appearance which must be some sort of record surely.
But are Amy and Rory really dead?  Or is it more a case of...

v)...Everybody lives!  See 'The Doctor Dances and particularly River Song's first appearance in 'Silence in the Library'/'Forest of the Dead'.  Moffatt really doesn't like killing off his favourite characters so manages to  both kill them off and give them a happy ending, thereby theoretically keeping the majority of viewers happy.


vi) The Doctor receives one final, written message from the person he has just lost.  Seen here in the Afterword written by Amy and also in the conclusion to 'The Girl in Fireplace' with the letter from Reinette.

So with all of the above crammed into just 45 minutes (and I've not even mentioned the general 'timey-wimey' nature of the story - something so common in a Moffatt story that it's barely worth pointing out) it's a miracle that the whole thing works at all.  And yet it does.  There are flaws in it certainly but I can overlook them for the sake of the drama.  Although the faults that I find with the episode are fairly minor compared with some of the criticisms I've read elsewhere.  For instance, the Angels apparently keep their victims prisoner in their 'farm' at Winter Quay until they die but who look after them until they die?  Who feeds them, tidies their rooms etc?  Is there some Angel that comes around providing room service?

 "Housekeeping?"

 And so ends an era.  Much as I've liked the Ponds it does feel like it's time for a change.  I'm certainly interested to see how the Eleventh Doctor changes and develops when he has a new friend travelling with him.  And I really want to find out more about the new girl.  We still don't even know her name yet.  I've heard the name 'Clara' bandied about in the forums although Jenna Louise Coleman's character in the Dalek episode was called Oswin.  So might that be the new girl's name?  I honestly don't have a clue and I'm genuinely looking forward to finding out what's going to happen next.  The Pond's journey might be over but the Doctor's carried on.

Next stop: Christmas.  


Friday, 5 October 2012

Book Review: The Angel's Kiss - A Melody Malone Mystery






It's not often that I buy a brand new Doctor Who book on the day that it's released.  In fact it's not often that I buy any book on the day it's released.  It's even rarer for me to read a book that I've just bought from beginning to end on the day that I bought it.  But, needless to say, that is what I've done with 'The Angel's Kiss'.  So I thought I give it a quick review.  

For those who aren't aware, 'The Angel's Kiss' is a Doctor Who novella that ties in the with most recent TV episode, 'The Angels Take Manhatten'.  It's written in the style of a 1930s style pulp fiction novel and is supposedly written by Melody Malone aka River Song.  And, if the cover looks familiar, that's because it looks very similar to the book that the Doctor was reading in the episode and which ended up being rather crucial to the whole story.


At this point I feel that I should point something out which I think certain fans may not be aware of.  Whereas the book in the TV episode seemed to detail events of said episode, including an afterword written by Amy to the Doctor, this novella IS NOT that book. Rather, the novella acts as a prequel to the TV episode.  A couple of characters from the episode briefly appear or are referred to but to all intents and purposes this can be read pretty much independently from the episode.  In fact the link between the two stories only becomes really clear towards the end of the novella.

The book itself is really good fun.  It centres on Melody Malone helping a movie star who believes someone is trying to kill him.  As I mentioned above it's supposedly written, in the first person by Melody Malone/River Song herself.  The real author is regular 'Who' novelist Justin Richards who does a great job is capturing River's character.  With one or two exceptions I could almost hear her voice in my head as I read it.

It's actually nice to see River having adventures on her own for a change (neither the Doctor nor Amy and Rory appear in this) and one can certainly see the potential in the series of such novellas.  In fact, given it's relatively brief length and it's pace, it almost felt like a 45 minute TV episode so if the BBC are ever looking for a new spin off series they could do worse than look at the adventures of Melody Malone.

Much as I enjoyed this book I do have a couple of minor issues.  The first is the fact that this has only been released as an ebook for the Kindle.  To my (admittedly limited) knowledge it hasn't  been released on any other e-reader device like the Kobo or Nook.  Now while that's not an issue for me personally it does mean that people who don't have a Kindle or a Kindle app are going to have trouble getting hold of this which is a real shame.

My other issue is with the climax of the story.  As the book's only just come out, I don't want to spoil anyone so before you read any further you might want to go off and finish reading the book first because there is a spoiler ahead.  I'll just wait for you.


 Spoilers...

Finished?  Good.  Well my issue is basically with the Angel that appears at the end.  Apparently the Angel seems to be able to somehow transform people into clones of other people (albeit ones with limited lifespans) and then somehow use the life force of those people to sustain itself.  Now I've either misunderstood what I read or the Angel is displaying a power that has been seen or, to my knowledge, mentioned in the TV series before.  

Minor quibbles aside this really is a good, fun if undemanding read and, if you can get it, I'd certainly recommend downloading it.