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Season 24 Report

doc mel

Den Of Geek recently published an article showing the BBC Audience Report for Doctor Who from 1988.

It does not make pleasant reading. In fact, it basically squats over our favourite show, relaxes, and unleashes a steady torrent of bum solids.

Some who don’t care for the McCoy era have pointed to this report as validation; just today I was listening to (a great) Who podcast and one of the hosts was understandably revelling in the piece slightly. But this report isn’t slating the McCoy era, it’s slating season 24. There’s a difference. There’s a difference between slating one season and the whole of the McCoy era, and there’s a HUGE difference between season 24 and the two seasons that followed. For me, it’s almost two different eras. How can you sit ‘Time & The Rani’ next to ‘Ghost Light’???

Look, I’m not here to make any great claims for season 24, I don’t despise it as some do, but I’m not an idiot, I can see the season for what it is. And, of course, there’s a few good reasons why it came out the way it did. Season 24 was made in a mad scramble. When Cartmel came aboard there was no Doctor, one script (which he disliked but had no choice but to go with due to time issues) and production running at full pace towards him, screaming. There was no time for fine craft, only to get something, anything, in front of camera. You know what did happen once they had a little more time and more of the pieces already in place? ‘Remembrance of The mother-cocking Daleks’.

Well… okay sure, there were still stumbles in seasons 25 & 26, but they were vastly outnumbered by the great. By ‘Survival’. By ‘Fenric’. By ‘Greatest Show’. And, yes, even by this sexy beast:

Kandy

So yeah, this titchy article is basically me being irked by hearing some of the reaction to that report and feeling the need to bat down a few of the crowing hordes with a rolled up newspaper (that I’ve dipped the end of into a bucket a rat pee). People pointing out season 24s deficiencies does not make you ‘right’ about the McCoy era. (In fact, there is no ‘right’, they’re stories, like em if you like em, don’t if you don’t.) Season 24 isn’t the McCoy era, it’s part of the McCoy era. The shaky first steps.

The best was yet to come.

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The Almost Companions

Companions

The Doc has picked up a lot of guys and gals over the years (let’s be honest, mostly lady types)(Women)(The ones without winkies). They’ve gone on to have adventures and so on and so forth and all was mostly lovely, but what about the almost companions? The ones who would’ve made great companions but were never asked, or actually decided against joining up?

Let’s take a look at some of the most notable ‘Almost Companions’ and weep (or thank our lucky stars) that they didn’t become ‘Actual Companions’.

Let’s do that very thing.

HERE:

Duggan! (!)(!!!)

duggan

‘City of Death’ is one of the finest stories in all of Who, and Duggan is one of Who’s finest characters. I can’t be the only one who wishes he’d leapt aboard the TARDIS at the end of the story, ready to run through many more brick walls. Just imagine him between the smug, imperious pairing of Baker’s Doctor and Romana 2, it could have been glorious. Sad face.

Ray (Super Welsh)

ray

Literally almost a companion, this one. With Mel (thankfully) about to jump ship, the prod team decided to road test a few potential companions before deciding who to give the job to, and super Welsh Ray was one of the options.  I’m kinda glad she never made it into the TARDIS; for one thing Ace ended up being my very most favouritest in the whole of Who companion. So that would have sucked. Also, that accent, she played it a little over-ripe for me.

Grace (Snogger) 

grace-holloway-daphne-ashbrook-1

Okay, so she was sort of semi-responsible for bringing about the end of Seven, but I was still sad she turned down the invitation to go travelling in the TARDIS. I guess she’s just the type to snog & leave. Probably to go and cry at some opera in a  fancy-pants dress. It’s funny with Grace, as I (and I’m sure most others) think of her as a companion, but technically she’s not. She had this one adventure then turned down the chance to join the box-fresh Eight on his adventures. For some reason. It’s a great pity we’ll never see more of her.

Adam (Booo! HISSS!)

Adam

Adam was there to show us that not everyone can make the grade, even after being invited on board. Adam was awful. Bye bye, Adam.

Cas (Went and died of death)

Cass Night 2

Not exactly the Doctor’s biggest fan. The first minute of this short made it seem as though we were seeing the start of a new companion for the Doctor, only for it to take that sharp, shocking left turn as she realises what he is. And then she’s all dead and stuff.

Rusty the Dalek (King of Side-Eye)

rusty

Just imagine it! Twelve and Rusty hopping through all of time and space! Or don’t. No. This would have been a terrible idea. OR WOULD IT?!?!?! (Yes)

Journey Blue (Nope, You Can’t Come In)

journey

This one fooled me. I felt FOR SURE that we’d be seeing more of soldier Journey Blue. That end, with the Doctor turning her down, felt tailor-made to revisit at the season’s end. The Doctor would grow, develop, soften, realise his error and jump back to just after the point he turned her down and say ‘Well, what are you waiting for?’ She’d smile, run in, end of season. BUT NOPE. Perhaps if Clara (as originally intended) had left at the season’s end we might have seen this? It’s a very Moffat thing to do.

Shona (Dance! Dance! Dance!)

Shona_McCullough

As with Journey Blue, I watched ‘Last Christmas’ and was SURE we were seeing the introduction of a new companion. She just had too much fizz, colour and mouth to be a minor one-off. And she calls the Doc a magician, and we already knew the next ep was called ‘The Magicians Apprentice’! I mean COME ON! Moffat also gave her such a sadness, such an apparently disappointing and lonely life, surely the Doctor was going to pull her out of that..? Again, at one point Clara was leaving at the end of this one, perhaps if she had…? Perhaps, perhaps and three times perhaps.

So which of the above would YOU like to have seen become a full-time companion? And who have I missed?

TELL ME!

@DoctorWhoThing

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Strangling Peri

six

“Hi… uh, my name is Matthew and… I sort of like ‘The Twin Dilemma’…”

Stop throwing that hot garbage at me!

Look, I KNOW it places bottom in most polls, and I KNOW it’s not actually ‘good’ in the most conventional (or, well,  ‘correct’) sense of the word, but every time I watch it I enjoy the heck out of the thing. More so than, say, the deadly dull ‘Frontios’, or the even duller ‘Planet of The Spiders’, for example. Mostly, this is down to Colin Baker BLOODY WELL GOING FOR IT. He does not shuffle onto the stage uncertainly, he ROARS in like a bloody maniac. Good on you, son!

ANYWAY.

I’m not here to try and defend Twin and my wrong-headed enjoyment of it, just one infamous scene. A scene that is constantly pinpointed by fans as a massive ‘mistake’: the newly regenerated Doctor giving Peri’s neck meat a bit of a squeeze.

I LOVE this.

Talk about a way to slap your viewers right across their pampered, preconception-reddened cheeks. Peter Davison, that lovely young man, just gave up his ‘life’ for this woman, and now this usurper is trying to strangle her?!

It knocks you off-centre, and it’s darn well supposed to. It’s purpose is to jolt you and make you question this new maniac who seems to have replaced the friendly, decent chap we’ve grown cosy-comfortable with. Colin Baker here was resolutely NOT comfortable.

GOOD.

New Doctor, throw the switch the other way and shake things up. It has to be different otherwise why bother changing the Doctor at all?

It’s an exciting, surprising moment; a modern equivalent (-ish) moment would be in Capaldi’s first episode, apparently leaving Clara to her doom in the robot’s lair. The last chap would never have done that! What the heck is going on here?! Of course not long after he returns heroically, turns out he never went far, but still, for a few minutes there you’ve been gut-punched.

And by giving that example, we get to the real issue with the Doctor strangling Peri. The mistake was not the moment itself, that moment is new and thrilling and completely unexpected. No, the mistake is that the story failed to turn us round on the Doctor sufficiently by the stories end. To show he was still the same man we knew him to be. Capaldi got to come back and be a hero, Baker doesn’t really get that quick turnaround in the story, certainly not with Peri. He continues to be untrustworthy, cowardly, un-heroic, and we’re left at the end of the story (and the end of the season!) without a real sense of closure on that attempted strangulation. The audience is left unsure.

That is the real ‘fault’ here, not the strangulation scene itself, or the desire to show a larger, more volatile Doctor. The modern show got it right with Capaldi’s Doc and made sure we had some moments to grab on to, to tell us it was going to be alright. Allowed him to be vulnerable. And that’s all that was needed here. Just a glimpse or two more of the hero, and, most importantly, a clear sense of the unbroken friendship between Sixie & Peri. 

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New Toys on the Block – the rise of Doctor Who merch

 

dapol 7Guest Post by Peter Bell , you can find more of his writing at http://pgbell.wordpress.com/

In my day, Doctor Who merchandise was a blissfully simple affair. We had the odd T-shirt (to be worn under the officially licenced 7th Doctor replica tanktop), the disappointing Dalek Attack computer game for the Amiga, and, most prominently of all, we had the Dapol figures.

Ah, Dapol! The name still evokes flutters of excitement in the hearts of a whole generation of fans. Not because the toys were especially good, of course. In fact they were often downright shoddy; the Daleks had paintwork you could rub off with your fingers, K9 was grey, the TARDIS console had the wrong number of sides and the whole lot was forged from plastic that possessed all the durability of bone china. But for nearly two decades, theirs was the only game in town. (And oh, how I still cherish my 25th Anniversary playset! I still don’t question what K9’s doing in there.)

dapolplayset

Looking back on it now, it made sense that Dapol, a firm who were not really toy manufacturers, should get the toy licence. Sound backwards? Let me explain. Dapol made model railway sets for middle age hobbyists and, by the late 1980s, that’s pretty much what Doctor Who was perceived to be – a hobby, enjoyed by middle-aged men harbouring fond memories of their youth.

How far we’ve come.

The show’s a global brand now and the BBC has been quick to exploit it as such, farming out merchandising rights to all comers. Like any popular franchise, this has resulted in the good (the Character Options classic series range of action figures spring to mind), the bad (the inflatable Toclafane beachball) and the downright bizarre (the Dalek Sec talking toothbrush, anyone?)

It’s a little ironic that such a devoutly leftist show should owe so much of its newfound success to the capitalist tendencies of BBC Worldwide, but the shameless truth is that most of us are rubbing our hands at the prospect of all the merchandise we could only ever dream of as kids.

But there was one dream that remained unrealised. One goal that seemed forever distant. Until this week…

Lego Doctor Who!

lego-doctor-who-cclose

Like validation from on high, the announcement that Andrew Clark’s submission to the Lego Ideas website has been successful, means our little show is finally rubbing shoulders with the likes of Star Wars and Harry Potter in the pantheon of viable global franchises. And that’s great! It’s exactly where it belongs. We always knew it was a world-beater, it’s just taken the world a little while to get the hint and lie down quietly.

So what can we expect from the new Lego licence? Details are scarce at the moment, although the promotional teaser released this week suggests we can expect plenty of Doc 12 action. Beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess but the potential is clearly vast. How about an original Hartnell TARDIS interior playset? Fancy building the Tomb of the Cybermen, one icy brick at a time? Lego Kandyman? (C’mon Lego, make it happen! MAKE IT HAPPEN!)

And Lego isn’t limited to the kits any more. Can we expect a Lego Doctor Who video game? And the Legoland theme parks recently added Star Wars to their Miniland sections, so why not Doctor Who as well? Maybe even a full-blown ride? The Beeb is getting into the theme park industry in a big way right now, so anything’s possible. (But that’s a topic for another post).

 LEGO-Doctor-Who-Sample-Set

Of course, all this is likely to cost a pretty penny. The new Lego Avengers helicarrier clocks in at an eye-watering £250, and I doubt a large-scale TARDIS interior kit would be much less. These aren’t just toys for kids any more. Ironically, they’re aimed at the sort of affluent, middle aged geek who might have found himself opening that Dapol playset back in the day. (Which reminds me, where was our 50th anniversary equivalent, Moffat?)

This all remains to be seen, of course. If Lego are smart, they’ll release a slew of smaller, more budget friendly kits to compliment the big tentpole sets. A chorus of Weeping Angels, perhaps, or a UNIT jeep and troops. Whatever happens, one thing is certain – we’ll never have to put up with that Megabloks crap again.

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Eric & I

Eric saward

I live on the same street as Eric Saward.

Yes.

‘Doctor Who’ writer and script editor for a large chunk of the 80s, during the Davison (Peter) (Father-in-Law of Tennant D.) and Baker (Colin) eras.

That’s not why I moved to the street I currently reside in though, that would be creepy. I’m not saying I’m not creepy, but on this occasion I’m innocent.

Honest.

‘So Matthew, when did you realise you had moved just doors away from the controversial 80s script editor, who quit the show in fury?’ Good question, me. ‘Thanks, you look handsome today. George Clooney handsome.’ Aw, schucks. But yes, yes I do.

Well, to answer my question, I first realised I lived near the writer of ‘Earthshock’ when I knocked on his door and he answered. I’m not in the habit of knocking on strangers doors, there was a reason; I’d arrived home to find one of those ‘we missed you’ cards the postman drops through your letter box. This one indicated that they’d left my package at an address a few doors away, so off I toddled, hair looking just terrific, to retrieve it.

I knocked at the door in front of me, as is the custom, little suspecting the man who penned all four episodes of ‘The Visitation’ lurked within. And so, after an acceptable amount of time post-knock, the door opened and there he was. I blinked once or twice (both lids) as I realised I recognised the gent before me. At first my mind-grapes crossed as the words ‘Chubby Doctor Who Writer’ popped in and it came up with ‘Terrence Dicks’. A moment later, perhaps two moments (but NOT three), I realised this wasn’t Dicks at all, it was that softly spoken man from all those DVD documentaries that graced Davison and Baker C stories, Eric ‘Resurrection’ Saward.

‘Yes?’ He asked, classic Saward, he hadn’t lost it.

I held up the postal card. ‘I think you have a package for me.’ Cool as ice, this guy had no idea that I knew. BUT I DID.

‘Oh yes.’ Spake one of the minds that brought us ‘Trial of a Timelord’. He reached out of view, and came back with a DVD shaped box from Amazon. It was a DVD. And oh, not just any DVD, it was a Doctor Who DVD. To be more precise, it was ‘Attack of The Cybermen’. He had no bloody idea at this amazing coincidence, that fate was leading the pair of us a merry dance.
‘Thanks.’ I said, all casual like, as though I wasn’t saying things at a man who had probably touched an in-his-prime Peter Davison. I took my post from his hands, our thumbs mere inches from touching. The air was crackling, electric. ‘I was worried for a moment that this package may have been lost in E-Space.’ I grinned like a tit as my piercing eyes scoured his face for a sign of recognition. Eric smiled. A gentle smile. The sort of smile a grandfather offers up to his grandchildren. He knew. He knew I knew, and I DID KNOW.

‘Would you like to come in for a chat? I’ve got lots of stuff on JNT that I’ve never told a single soul. Stuff to turn your downstairs hair white.’ Saward stepped aside; I took a deep breath, joy bubbling in my heart like a pan full of water on the hob, just waiting for that rice. And in I went.

Well.

Some of that didn’t actually happen. But most of it did. Eric still lives a few doors away, and he STILL has no idea that I know. But I do.

I KNOW WHO YOU ARE ERIC.

I KNOW

Okay, now that’s a bit creepy.

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Gateway Stories

50 Who

There’s now over fifty years worth of Doctor Who rattling about, so what to do if you want to try and hook that friend of yours into watching if they’ve never seen the show before? Do you show them an easy ‘jumping on point’, like ‘Rose’? Or perhaps you forget about that and just show them what you consider to be a classic, like ‘Human Nature’, and hope that its quality will be enough to ensnare your prey?

Stop straining that flabby brain of yours, nerd, I’ve done your work for you; ain’t I a sweetie? Using my own thinking-smarts, and those of my sexy Twitter followers, I’ve collated a complete and total FOOL PROOF* list of stories that I think might be enough to turn a non-fan to the Who-side:

Modern Who

11th Hour

The Eleventh Hour

This would be my number one choice. Easy. Not only is it clearly a shiny, lovely piece of brilliance from Steven Moffat, but it’s a story in which everything is new. A fresh off-screen creative team flexes its muscles, whilst on-screen a new Doctor and a new companion capture our imagination. It’s a fresh start that’s not looking back, rather setting up things for the future. Even the look of the thing leapt up and pulled the show forward. If you can watch this and not want to see what happens next, you may not be human (maybe you’re a large dog in a human suit). Clearly I’m not alone in this (yeah, yeah, completely obvious) choice; Twit-folk like    and    and  and  and   and  and  and… and… basically loads of people agreed with me. What a clever, facially fabulous bunch.

Blink

Blink

Who author Jenny Colgan (@jennycolgan) tossed this one into the ring, and many lined up to agree.  ‘Blink’ seems to be a popular choice for many, but obviously it’s also an odd choice in many ways as it barely even features the Doctor or his companion. It instead focuses on Sally Sparrow, who exists only in this one episode. But it has several things going for it, not least of which is its sheer quality. Quality above all else is going to hook a new viewer into wanting to watch another episode. It also introduces The Weeping Angels, the most popular new series monster.

girl

The Girl in The Fireplace

This one was the top choice of Andrew Ellard (@ellardent), and he could be onto a winner with it. It’s sci-fi! It’s historical! It’s a romance! It has scares, and clever stuff, and funny bits, and… well just about everything. Almost all of what modern Who can be is encapsulated in this one story.

Go Classic..?

Now I wouldn’t personally use a classic series story as a gateway episode. Perhaps to a very young child, otherwise I think you’ll be on far safer ground with a story from the modern series. BUT! If I had to go classic, then the one I would plump for is:
dalek rem

Remembrance of The Daleks

It’s a blooming Dalek masterpiece from the pen of Ben Aaronovitch, which jump-started the McCoy era and lead the charge for a final two terrific years of the classic series. It’s exciting, it looks great, there’s a terrific TARDIS team at the centre who clearly love being together, juicy questions about race and fascism to ponder; in short: it’s brilliant.

But others thought differently, @SDElsden reckons Tom Baker classic ‘The Robots of Death’ is the one to turn a non-fans head, @AlphaOod insists Pertwee’s debut, ‘Spearhead From Space’ is the obvious choice,  would point people towards ‘The Horror of Fang Rock’, whilst @MarkTrevorOwen says that the Douglas Adams penned ‘City of Death’ has never failed for him.

Start with P-Cap!?

Deep

Deep Breath

A new Doctor, a new start… and a new jumping on point? Nah, unlike Moffat’s other first ep for a new Doctor, this one has perhaps too much baggage to act as a clean jumping on point. From a carryover companion, to the Paternoster Gang, to the previous Doc phoning from Trenzalore. I’m sure it would work for some, but it’s as likely to befuddle just as many.

Looking over this I’ve realised that all of the modern episodes chosen are by Moffat. So… maybe just show them one of the best Moffat eps and job done..?

Which adventure do you think makes the ideal ‘gateway story’?

*may not actually be fool-proof.

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Doctor Who U.S.A.

GOOSEIn the fall of 1967, America (the U.S.A.)  made one of several failed attempts to create their own successful version of ‘Doctor Who’. Unlike the Paul McGann TV Movie, this attempt from the 60s never actually made it to air.

Actor William ‘Bill’ Shatner ‘Shat’ (probably best known for his work on ‘TekWar’) was, the producers claim, their first and only choice for the lead role. In actual fact, I understand they approached John Wayne first, who turned them down flat and chased the producers from his property wielding a large whip (a gift from Director John Ford). They kept this information from Shatner as they believed he would throw one of his legendary crying fits if he discovered the truth. Two years previously, Shatner had almost wept all the moisture from his body after a minor disagreement over a parking spot.

Above is rare publicity shot of Shatner in character. Just as Matt Smith had ‘Geronimo’, and Tennant ‘Allonsy’, Shatner’s Doctor also had a catchphrase: ‘Eat fist, Commie!’

TAXIAlthough faithful to it’s source material in many ways, there were potentially controversial deviations. Rather than the TARDIS appearing in its familiar Police Box shape for example, Shatner’s Doctor traveled in a yellow New York Taxi-Cab, as producers said it was ‘more relatable in Ohio’. Although the Taxi-Cab couldn’t travel through time, it was marginally bigger on the inside, especially the glove box, into which Shatner at one point in the pilot crawls inside of to hide from some passing aliens.

FLINTThe finished pilot was not looked upon favourably by the network, who decided to shelve the show, stating: ‘This is nothing like The Munsters!’ The pilot’s producers found this point difficult to argue with. In a last ditch attempt to change the networks mind, the producers re-tooled the pilot, teaming Shatner’s Doctor up with a sassy Go-Go dancer named ‘Go-Go’, and changing the title to ‘Doctor Who: Spy Mission America’ in hope of cashing in on some of the ‘In Like Flint’  Spy-mania; but even this failed to turn things around.

The finished pilot pretty much disappeared from view, becoming something a a myth among Who Nerds, many believing that any copies had long since been destroyed. I thought the same, until last week when I was contacted by a private collector of classic TV. I have yet to see the pilot itself, beyond a few pictures, but since forwarding my source in Hollywood several hundred pounds and my bank details, he has assured me that he is in the process of sending a copy to me by FEDEX. I look forward to sharing a new post with you in which I critique this lost treasure!

@DoctorWhoThing