Sunday, 31 October 2010
Received my pre-ordered copy of this new PSB greatest hits CD and DVD yesterday, and far from actually being their Ultimate singles collection, it's still faultless! The DVD contains many of their BBC TV appearances, from the Boys' first time on Top of the Pops, upto this years's glorious Glastonbury concert. For me, the best video here has to be Can You Forgive Her? Typical PSB! The CD of course includes the superlative new single, Together (released 29/11) which rounds off 25 years of hits in style. My favourite track though, remains What Have I Done To Deserve This! Left to their own devices, the Pet Shop Boys are the ultimate British pop band of the last 3 decades.
Before Doctor Who was resurrected for the 21st century, another cult 1960's TV show, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), was brilliantly brought back from the dead by Charlie Higson (who made Hitchcock-esque cameos in all 13 stories). Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer reprised the roles of Marty Hopkirk and Jeff Randall, whilst Emilia Fox (who voiced Berenice in Nevermore, Big Finish) and former Doctor Tom Baker became the other series regulars, Jeannie Hurst and Wyvern. NuWho composer Murray Gold provided the music. The original series was created by Doctor Who script editor Dennis Spooner, and was broadcast in 1969/70.
Episode 1.1/Drop Dead (TX, 18/3/2000):
- For Tenth Doctor actor, David Tennant (Gordon Stylus) see http://ecklefecken.blogspot.com/2010/10/doctor-who-vs-single-father.html
- For Jessica Hynes (Felia) & Mark Gatiss (Insp. Large) see http://ecklefecken.blogspot.com/2010/10/doctor-who-vs-shaun-of-dead.html
- Steve Pemberton (Sgt. Liddel) played Strackman Lux in Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
- Classic Who regular Laurie Goode (Removal Man) was a Mutt in The Mutants, a Time Lord in The Invasion of Time, a Bandit in The Creature from the Pit, a Tigellan in Meglos, a Sailor in Enlightenment, and a UNIT trooper in Battlefield
1.2/Mental Apparition Disorder (TX, 25/3/2000):
- Martin Clunes (Nash) played Lon in Snakedance
- Richard Todd (Waterman) was Sanders in the earlier Mara story, Kinda
- Wanda Ventham (Alice) was Jean Rook in The Faceless Ones, Thea Ransome in Image of the Fendahl, and Faroon in Time and the Rani
1.3/The Best Years of Your Death (TX, 1/4/2000):
- Rory Jennings (Daniel) played Tommy Connolly in The Idiot's Lantern
- Mark Straker (Dawkins) was a Trooper in Earthshock
1.4/Paranoia (TX, 8/4/2000):
- Arabella Wier (Judith) has the distinction of being only the second actress (after Joanna Lumley) to portray a female Doctor, in Unbound: Exile (BF, 2003) - she appeared with two future Doctors, Tennant and Richard E Grant, in Posh Nosh
- Tim Wallers (Lacey) was Childers in Victory of the Daleks
- For Simon Pegg's Who roles see http://ecklefecken.blogspot.com/2010/10/favourite-films-1.html (here he is Justin Pope)
- Paul Rhys (Douglas Milton) was Max Paul, the Baroc in The Scapegoat for BF/Radio 7
1.5/Blast from the Past (TX, 15/4/2000):
- Mark Benton (Wallis) played Clive in Rose
- Susan Brown (Deirdre) was Bridget Spears in Torchwood-Children of Earth
- Patrick Ryecart (Posh Man) was Dr. Crozier in Mindwarp
1.6/A Man of Substance (TX, 22/4/2000):
- Elizabeth Spriggs (Mrs Glauneck) was Tabby in Paradise Towers
- Gareth Thomas (Bechard) voiced Lord Tamworth in Storm Warning (BF, 2001)
- Tony Bluto (Mr Banks) was Driver Joe in Midnight
- Rachel Weaver (Mrs Banks) was Inga in Terminus
- Hugh Lloyd (Seth) played Garonwy in Delta and the Bannermen
Thursday, 14 October 2010
The TARDIS lands on an unnamed planet in the future. Here, a human colony is policed by the Pilot, but is really led by the Controller - a 'Big Brother' figure, with a tannoy-voice akin to the loudspeaker addresses in Quatermass II (actually provided by Nigel Kneale). He is only ever seen (via monitors) as an imposing man, given the disembodied voice. The true masters however, are huge crab-like creatures, the Macra.
The colony's holiday camp image (complete with cheerleaders, public-announcements, and jingles) belies the truth - the brain-washed colonists are closely watched, and kept in a state of complacent contentment (21 years before The Happiness Patrol). They're forced to mine gas, lethal to humans but vital to the Macra's survival.
Ben succumbs to Control's conditioning, and he betrays his friends. When he recovers, Ben destroys the gas pumping equipment, thereby killing the Macra and restoring the colony's freedom. The travellers depart before the Doctor can be appointed the new Pilot!
The Macra Terror has obvious Orwellian parallels, and Ian Stuart Black's scripts address themes of propoganda and conformity, at a time when the electorates of the West were increasingly disillusioned with government and the establishment. In the wake of political scandals and assassinations, people were questioning their obedience to authority in the 1960's. The age of deference was over. This idea is best illustrated by the Doctor's comment to Polly: "... you've been given orders while you've been asleep... Don't just be obedient. Always make up your own mind" (echoes of 1984, The Manchurian Candidate, and A Clockwork Orange). Similarly, the story's funniest scene has the Doctor rebelling against this ordered regime. When his unkempt appearance is questioned, the Doctor's clothes and hair are styled by a grooming machine. In dismay, the Doctor uses a toning device to get messed-up again: "But who wants to see their face in a pair of suede shoes?"
True, the story is let down by the Macra themselves, but this can be overlooked because their scenes are kept to a minimum, and the suspense is only heightened in the audio version.
- This four-part adventure originally aired in March and April 1967, and achieved average ratings of 8.3M
- Working titles for the serial were The Spidermen, The Insect-Men, and The Macras
- A History of the Universe (Parkin, 1996) sets the action in the year 2366
- This is the first story to feature the Doctor's face in the title sequence
- Cast members Sandra Bryant (Chicki) and John Harvey (Official) had both appeared in The War Machines, and Gertan Klauber (Ola) was in The Romans - Peter Jeffrey (the Pilot, pictured) would return in The Androids of Tara as Count Grendel
- None of the episodes exist in the BBC archives
- Colin Baker provides the linking narration on the 1992 (cassette) and 2000 (CD) soundtrack releases
- The Macra made a surprise return 40 years later to menace New New York in Gridlock
- The story was placed 137th in the DWM Mighty 200 Poll (Issue 413, September 2009)
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
It was during The Deadly Assassin (1976) that we learnt TimeLords are able to 'regenerate' only twelve times before they die. Fandom and viewers alike have therefore always assumed that the Doctor's 13th body would be his last, but a passing comment in The Sarah Jane Adventures later this month will redefine TV history by now making the Doctor immortal!
In the 2-part CBBC spin-off story, The Death of the Doctor, Clyde (one of ex-companion Sarah Jane Smith's proteges) asks the current Doctor how many times he can regenerate. The Doctor casually indicates that there is in fact no limit.
Way back in Tom Baker's tenure, Doctor No. 13 would have seemed light years away, but with the 11th Doctor now here, moving the goal-posts was inevitable.
Only recently, JK Rowling admitted that once a hero has conquered the world, he [Harry Potter] never truly goes away. Even Conan Doyle was forced to resurrect Sherlock Holmes from the dead.
Does the last of the TimeLords now share the same ability to live forever, as Captain Jack Harkness? I suspect that Torchwood creator Russell T Davies has wanted to address this issue since Doctor Who returned in 2005.
Unlike the late 1980's, the present BBC execs are thankfully reluctant to end their ever expanding flagship drama programme.
Sunday, 10 October 2010
2009 turned out to be a year of consolidation for Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. At the BRITS in February they collected a well-earned Outstanding Contribution to Music Award. A month later saw the release of Yes, their best-selling album in 13 years, then in the summer they launched a worldwide stadium tour.
They could well ask What Have I Done To Deserve This? After 25 years of mixed fortune, the Pet Shop Boys are most definately worthy of such accolades.
Since West End Girls reached No. 1 (the first of 4 in the UK) in 1985, Messrs Tennant and Lowe have secured 43 Top 40 hits, and sold over 100 million records. The Pet Shop Boys are the most successful duo in UK music history, and the biggest British act on the US Dance Chart with 10 number 1's there. Next month, the Boys release Ultimate, their 17th album, and 56th single, Together.
Yes is the 10th studio album, and spawned 3 singles (Beautiful People was only issued in Germany). Personally, this is probably my favourite Pet Shop Boys album, the best songs being Did You See Me Coming? and should-have-been-a-single Pandemonium. For me, track 2, All Over The World (with it's brilliant Tchaikovsky sampling), typifies everything the Boys are about: this is a joyous celebration of their global appeal.
The 14-month Pandemonium tour took in 88 performances in 31 countries, and I was lucky enough to attend the Liverpool and Manchester dates. The London show at the O2 arena last December was filmed, and released on DVD this year.
Saturday, 9 October 2010
Thursday, 7 October 2010
The TARDIS brings the Doctor and his new companions, Ben and Polly, to the Cornish coast of the late 17th century. Here, pirates led by Captain Pike are searching for Avery's legendary treasure, while the local Squire Edwards and Kewper the inn-keeper operate a smuggling ring.
Longfoot, the church-warden, passes on a cryptic rhyme to the Doctor, and is then killed by Pike's henchman, Cherub. The Doctor is kidnapped by Pike's men, then Ben and Polly are arrested for Longfoot's murder. Having escaped, the three travellers are reunited at the church crypt, where Pike forces the Doctor to reveal the treasure's location by solving Longfoot's riddle. The TARDIS crew sneak away when Revenue officer Blake and his militia arrive to confront the pirates.
William Hartnell is on top form here. Despite nearing the end of this incarnation, the Doctor is by no means on his last legs, and he still has some new tricks up his sleeves.
Season 4 opener The Smugglers is notable for several reasons:
- It was the final historical story of the First Doctor's era, and was Hartnell's penultimate appearance in the lead (it was during production of this story that Hartnell decided to relinquish the title role)
- It achieved the lowest-ever viewing figures for the series (averaging 4.5M per installment) upto The Trial of a Time Lord (1986), and proved the death-knell of the purely historical stories (The Highlanders, just two months away, was the last true visit to the past until Black Orchid in 1982)
- It was filmed almost entirely on location, actually in it's Cornish setting
- All four episodes are now missing from the BBC archives - ironically, the only surviving clips are those excised by Australian censors, deemed unsuitable, and can be seen on the Lost in Time DVD
- This 2002 CD release has linking narration from Anneke Wills (Polly)
- This was Brian Hayles' second script for Doctor Who - he also wrote The Celestial Toymaker, The Ice Warriors, The Seeds of Death, and the two Peladon serials
- The serial was placed at No. 159 in the DWM Mighty 200 Poll (Issue 413, September 2009)