Saturday, 31 December 2011

Great Doctor Who Quotes #16

"It told me to find you, it wants to be held.
Because it was waiting, then because I was so scared. Of the Doctor.
Because.. I've seen him. He's like fire. And ice. And rage. He's like the night and the storm and the heart of the sun.
He's ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time, and he can see the turn of the universe.
And he's wonderful."

- Tim Latimer, The Family of Blood (June 2nd 2007)
Written by Paul Cornell

Friday, 30 December 2011

Great Doctor Who Quotes #15

"Dickens? Charles Dickens? You're completely, 100% brilliant! I've read 'em all! Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, and what's the one with the ghost.. the one with the trains? The Signalman - terrifying! The best short story ever written. You're a genius. Honestly, Charles.. er, can I call you Charles? I'm such a big fan.. Number one fan, that's me.. it means fanatic. Mind you, that American bit in Martin Chuzzlewit, what's that about? Was that padding or what? It's rubbish! Oh well, if you can't take criticism.. Do the death of Little Nell, it cracks me up. No.. Forget about that. Come on! Faster!
My friend. She's only 19 and it's my fault. She's in my care, now she's in danger."

- The Doctor, The Unquiet Dead (April 9th 2005)
Written by Mark Gatiss

The Best (and Worst) Doctor Who of 2011

The io9 science blog published it's TV review of the year yesterday. Meredith Woerner's article, The Best and Worst Television Moments of 2011, features three Doctor Who stories. 
The season finale, The Wedding of River Song is actually named as one of the 'Worst' shows, and is described as the "most melodramatic Who moments we've seen since Russell T Davies, but with way less real emotion behind it. So much cheese, and not in the fun tiney wimey way."
Thankfully, the list of 'Best' sci-fi and fantasy programmes includes The Impossible Astronaut ("a classic example of the many wonderful Matt Smith Doctor-isms we were treated to this year"), and A Good Man Goes to War - "We'd thought our days of swooning over Rory Williams had come to an end after the heroic Pandorica epic (after all, he is the boy who waited). But then someone kidnaps his wife, and Rory gets pissed! What a glorious moment for all "The Nose" fans everywhere. 

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Great Doctor Who Quotes #14

"Do you wanna come with me? 'Cause if you do then I should warn you, you're gonna see all sorts of things. Ghosts from the past. Aliens from the future. The day the Earth died in a ball of flame. It won't be quiet. It won't be safe, and it won't be calm. But I'll tell you what it will be: the trip of a lifetime!"

- The Doctor, Series 1, Trailer 5 (2005)

Great Doctor Who Quotes #13

"I'm the Doctor. I'm a Time Lord. I'm from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I'm 903 years old and I'm the man who is gonna save your lives and all six billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?"

- The Doctor, Voyage of the Damned (Christmas Day 2007)
Written by Russell T Davies

Friday, 23 December 2011

Doctor Who in the Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph website yesterday published a trio of Doctor Who articles. Firstly, actress Arabella Weir was asked to write about her new role [of Bilis] in "the biggest, coolest show on television." Working with Bill Bailey on The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe was the highlight of her career. And Weir's co-star, Alexander Armstrong, has revealed his favourite Doctor today - the present incumbent, Matt Smith.

Writer Gavin Fuller then lists his "top ten female assistants" from the programme:
  • Zoe Heriot "was played with great charm by Wendy Padbury, who had to don some interesting costumes"
  • Nyssa "was the perfect foil for the Fifth Doctor"
  • Jo Grant was "the clumsy UNIT operative" and part of "one of the "warmest Doctor-companion pairings"
  • Ace was "the streetwise tomboy" and the first, pre-RTD era companion "given an emotional journey"
  • Barbara Wright played "an integral part of establishing the series"
  • Donna Noble "was a mature woman.. able to.. keep the Tenth Doctor in much-needed check"
  • Peri Brown was "the most physically attractive of all" TARDIS travellers
  • Leela was "an Eliza Doolittle figure" who's "success was due to Louise Jameson's fine performance"
  • Rose Tyler was given "a very fine, naturalistic performance" from Billie Piper
  • and unsurprisingly, Sarah Jane Smith is revealed as "the best of companions"
Finally, readers are offered Fuller's "top ten best Doctors":
    • Paul McGann is described as "the George Lazenby" of Doctors, who "instantly nailed how to play" him
    • Christopher Eccleston - here given the usual "serious" tag again - played "a different kind of Doctor"
    • Sylvester McCoy "brought a Troughton-esqe eccentricity to the role with this most Scottish of Doctors, and.. tried to bring back an element to the part"
    • Matt Smith "has charisma to burn in the role, looks suitably alien, and has brought a subtlety.. not seen since Troughton" but, like McCoy, seems "too light-hearted at times" and currently lacks gravitas
    • William Hartnell "was a Doctor who mellowed from crotchety anti-hero to benevolent old sage"
    • Peter Davison had the "most difficult task in taking on the role" and seemed "to be more of a big brother to his companions"
    • "For many the definitive Doctor" Tom Baker only polls here at #4! Baker's "natural eccentricity" was "helped by a memorable hat and scarf costume" and his "first three years.. were possibly the strongest consistent run of serials in the programme's history"
    • Patrick Troughton "brought a huge degree of subtlety to the role, which makes it a terrible shame that so many of his episodes were lost"
    • David Tennant was able "to show us just what a good actor he is" and is "easily one of the great Doctors"
    • and the best Doctor here (thereby pushing Colin Baker out of the rundown) is Jon Pertwee - "an action hero.. with a strong moral slant" and "a panache that has never been bettered"

    Tuesday, 20 December 2011

    Pet Shop Boys: Format

    The Pet Shop Boys announced their new compilation album last month, and the CD artwork was unveiled today. Format is the long-awaited, second B-sides release, akin to the unofficial Beside, and follows Alternative (1995). 


    Pet Shop Boys will release a brand new b-sides compilation on February 6th, 2012, on Parlophone. "Format" celebrates the duo's prolific song-writing and recording by collecting 38 b-sides and bonus tracks originally released on singles from 1996 to 2009. The album will be available digitally and on double-CD. All tracks have been remastered and the CD booklet features an interview with Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe by Jon Savage (author of "England's Dreaming" and "Teenage"). Design is by Farrow.
    Pet Shop Boys are currently working on their 11th studio album which is due for release in early autumn next year.
    The full "Format" track-listing is as follows:

    1. The truck driver and his mate
    2. Hit and miss
    3. In the night (1995)
    4. Betrayed
    5. How I learned to hate rock 'n' roll
    6. Discoteca (New Version)
    7. The calm before the storm
    8. Confidential (Demo for Tina)
    9. The boy who couldn't keep his clothes on
    10. Delusions of grandeur
    11. The view from your balcony
    12. Disco potential
    13. Silver age
    14. Screaming
    15. The ghost of myself
    16. Casting a shadow
    17. Lies
    18. Sexy Northerner

    1. Always
    2. Nightlife
    3. Searching for the face of Jesus
    4. Between two islands
    5. Friendly fire
    6. We're the Pet Shop Boys
    7. Transparent
    8. I didn't get where I am today
    9. The Resurrectionist
    10. Girls don't cry
    11. In private (7-inch mix): Pet Shop Boys with Elton John
    12. Blue on blue
    13. No time for tears (7-inch mix)
    14. Bright young things
    15. Party song
    16. We're all criminals now
    17. Gin and Jag
    18. After the event
    19. The former enfant terrible
    20. Up and down

    Fifty Years of a Time Lord

    Doctor Who websites and forums are rife with speculation about the programme's forthcoming Fiftieth Anniversary, still almost two years away. The Radio Times website today published an interview (from The Scotsman) with Steven Moffat. The showrunner discusses the rumoured Hollywood reboot of Doctor Who, his eventual departure, and naturally, the anniversary special - read his comments here.

    The latest edition of the SFX Collection, The Fanzine, asks writers and fans how the BBC should celebrate the show's half-century, whilst the current issue of DWM debates the pros-and-cons of re-casting past Doctors. The majority of Whovians seem to favour a traditional, multi-Doctor story, but personally, I thinks that Paul McGann deserves another television outing. Obviously, all other ten incarnations would feature in my adventure, but purely in flashback sequences. The story would open like this:

    "An older and weary Eighth Doctor flees the ruined Capitol - the sound of death fills the air.
     The Doctor has fought the last battle. The Time War is finally at an end. The Daleks have been wiped from existence, but at the ultimate cost - the Doctor has sacrificed his own race. There are no victors, only one survivor. Gallifrey and Skaro, and countless other worlds and civilisations are dead.
    As the Doctor lies dying in the last TARDIS in the universe, he reflects on all his past lives. We see snatches of his memories.."

    Radio Times TV Review of 2011

    That venerable publishing colossus, Christmas perennial, and loyal Doctor Who advocate - the Radio Times - has revealed the results of another survey. Their website's "top 40 shows of" the year has placed the programme at a respectable number 8 - see the complete list here. Critic Jack Seale writes:

    8. Doctor Who BBC1
    A sometimes frustrating, often majestic second series for showrunner Steven Moffat. He trusted his audience to deal with a torrent of ideas, particularly in the series’ bewildering major story arc about the apparent death of the Doctor and his inside-out relationship with River Song (Alex Kingston). But the real highlights were the one-offs: among the strongest were The Doctor’s Wife, an ingenious story of the Tardis made flesh that encapsulated the Doctor’s fundamental Flying Dutchman predicament; the simple retro spooks of Night Terrors; and The Girl Who Waited, a stripped-down story that asked for and got a best-ever performance from Karen Gillan. More often than not, Moffat and his muse, Matt Smith, gave kids (big and small) sci-fi thrills of extraordinary quality and ambition.

    Sunday, 11 December 2011

    Missing Doctor Who Episodes Recovered!

    The Doctor and Vicki in a scene from Airlock

    The official Doctor Who website has revealed that two lost episodes have been recovered, restored, and unveiled in London today. The BFI's annual Missing Believed Wiped event at the National Film Theatre has shown Airlock, the third part of Galaxy 4 (originally broadcast September 25th 1965), and part two of The Underwater Menace (January 21st 1967).
    The complete, black and white episodes were bought by film collector Terry Burnett at a village fete near Southampton in the early 1980's, but he was unaware that the canisters contained missing BBC material, and the classic footage was loaned to the BBC archives earlier this year. Screen shots are available to view here, and you can read a BBC News report here.

    There are currently 106 episodes from 27 serials, still missing from the archives. Three stories have no surviving footage at all - Marco Polo, Mission to the Unknown, and The Massacre. This new find comes seven years after episode two of The Daleks' Master Plan was recovered, and the last, whole story to be unearthed was The Tomb of the Cybermen almost 20 years ago.

    Monday, 5 December 2011

    New Matt Smith Interview

    Photo by Murdo Macleod for the Observer Magazine 

    Euan Ferguson's interview with Matt Smith appeared in The Guardian last Saturday. Introduced as the "lord of misrule" the writer remarks that the actor "spends all his time in Wales, has no social life, and he's just broken up with Daisy Lowe. But as Doctor Who returns, Smith [reveals] why he's the luckiest man on TV."
    The pair discuss the Higgs boson (aka. the "God particle"), Harris Tweed (steeped in a "piss bucket"), and Smith's Best Sci-Fi Actor award, before getting round to this year's Christmas special, described as Tim Burton-esque!

    Now two years into the role of the Time Lord, does the actor "feel he's changed him at all?" Having achieved the near-impossible feat of successfully following David Tennant into the TARDIS, this Doctor is "still evolving" and Smith lovingly sums up his portrayal:
     "As the doctor ages he gets younger and sillier. He's over 1,000 now, I think. And – oh, I just like him. His lack of cynicism. He's like a baby. He wants to sniff, to taste, everything; he'll never dismiss anything. As we get older – perhaps I'm just speaking for myself – we can get too cynical. If he had a… bath, it would be filled with rubber ducks which could talk or something; he'd find a way to reinvent the common bath. And I admire that."

    And asking the inevitable question, does this eleventh incarnation now have a finite lifespan? Again, Smith answers with typical enthusiasm and honesty: 
    "It depends on your physical and mental state at the end of every shoot. I just take it year by year, but I'm quite excited by the coming year – it's the 50th anniversary, which'll let us be even bigger and bolder than ever." It's harder to think how much bigger, bolder, stranger. Don't there come limits? "Never. Not in Doctor Who. That's the beauty of it. You're never bound by logic, or time, or genre, or space, or location, which is what makes it such an ingenious televisual conceit."

    Ferguson also discovers how Smith's sporting injury resulted in an accidental acting career:
    "I'd been playing football my whole life, really. Loved it – still do. I was at Leicester City at the time, and it wasn't any one incident, just a succession, and it was L5, my lumbar 5, there was a problem with that. I'll never forget it, the day before my history GCSE, and Leicester said they wouldn't be extending my contract because of it – it was a nasty time, bleak, but at least I was just 16."

    The rest of the interview covers many other topics, such as the programme's ratings, Smith's drama teacher, past projects, fame, Richard Dawkins, filming new Who, and bow ties! Read the full conversation here.

    Tuesday, 22 November 2011

    Doctor Who: Children In Need 2011

    The title of this year's Doctor Who Christmas story was revealed during last Friday's Children in Need telethon. In a sketch specially written by Steven Moffat, the Doctor performed a striptease, and Matt Smith's costume was then auctioned for the charity, raising £50K! This was followed by a trailer for The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe.

    Saturday, 19 November 2011

    Doctor Who Vs. Titanic

    Next April sees the re-release of 1997's Titanic movie - now in 3D - and a new Titanic mini-series for ITV1, written by Downton Abbey creator, Julian Fellowes. 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the loss of the famed liner, and the star-studded TV drama is planned to air over four consecutive nights. Headed by Geraldine Somerville (Cracker), Celia Imrie, and Linus Roache, the cast includes these Doctor Who cast connections:
    • James Wilby (Bruce Ismay) has been cast as Tenebris for next year's The Acheron Pulse (Big Finish)
    • Toby Jones (Batley) played the Dream Lord in Amy's Choice 
    • Lee Ross (Barnes) was the Boatswain in The Curse of the Black Spot
    • Sophie Winkleman (Dorothy) voiced Kelly Westwood for The Eight Truths and Worldwide Web (BF, both 2009)
    • for Christine Kavanagh (Mrs Thayer) see A Very British Coup here
    • Sylvestra Le Touzel (Lady Duff Gordon) made her TV debut, aged 10, in The Mind Robber, as a Child
    • Simon Paisley Day (Lord Duff Gordon) was a Steward in The End of the World
    • Miles Richardson (Astor) provided the voice of Black Rod for The Gunpowder Plot, and see Murder Rooms (here) for his previous roles
    • Ruth Bradley (Mary) voices the Eight Doctor's new companion, Molly O'Sullivan for next year's Dark Eyes quartet
    • Pandora Colin (Countess of Rothes) voiced Fash for Prisoner of the Sun (BF, 2010)
    • Timothy West (Lord Pirie) voiced Kai Tobias for Phobos (2007), Ronald Turvey for Cuddlesome (2008), and Dr Magnus Soames for House of Blue Fire (2011) - all from Big Finish
    Another forthcoming, big-budget TV production is also due to air next April. The BBC's 12-part Titanic: Blood and Steel chronicles the construction of the luxury liner in Belfast, over 15 years, at the cost of 105 lives. This drama star these Doctor Who guest actors:
    • Michael Cochrane (Captain Smith) played Charles Cranleigh in Black Orchid, Redvers Fenn-Cooper in Ghost Light, and voiced three Big Finish roles - Lt. Col. Brook for No Man's Land (2006), Murgat for Brotherhood of the Daleks (2008), and Colonel Spindleton for Trail of the White Worm (2012) - he is the older brother of Martin Cochrane (Chellak in The Caves of Androzani)
    • for Derek Jacobi (Lord Pirie) see my second Randall & Hopkirk blog
    • Gray O'Brien (Bruce Ismay) was Rickston Slade onboard Titanic in Voyage of the Damned
    James Cameron's record-breaking, Oscar-laden cinema epic also featured the following Doctor Who guest actors: 
    • David Warner (Lovejoy) voiced five roles for Big Finish - the 'Unbound' Doctor for Sympathy for the Devil (2003), and Masters of War (2008), Isaac Newton for Circular Time: Summer (2007), Co-ordinator Angell for Empathy Games (2007), Siris for The Children of Seth (2011), and Professor Boston Schooner for Deimos (2010), and Lord Azlok for Dreamland (BBC Red Button/BBC2)
    • Ron Donachie (Master-at-Arms) was a Steward in Tooth and Claw
    • real-life husband and wife, Martin Jarvis and Rosalind Ayres (here as married couple, the Duff Gordons) were both in Jubilee (BF, 2003) as Nigel and Miriam Rochester, and the 3 'classic' TV roles of Jarvis can be found here
    • Paul Brightwell (Quartermaster Hitchens) was the Surgeon in World Enough and Time
    • Terry Forrestal (Bell) was a Tractor driver in K9 and Company

      Wednesday, 16 November 2011

      Doctor Who Vs. Agatha Christie: Part 2

      BBC2 first transmitted Agatha Christie: A Life in Pictures in September 2004. This 90-minute biopic - told in flashback from Agatha's point of view - examined her famous disappearance of 1926. Here, her psychiatrist concluded that the novelist (portrayed by Olivia Williams) had been in a fugue state at the time, and her amnesia was genuine (see Part 1).
      The programme was repeated on BBC4 in 2008, and featured these five Doctor Who cast connections:
      • For Anna Massey (Older Agatha) see Vs. Strange, here
      • Raymond Coulthard (Archie Christie) voiced Loki/Edgar/Hawks for Cobwebs (Big Finish, 2010)
      • Anthony O'Donnell (Kenward/Poirot) played Commander Kaagh in The SJA: Enemy of the Bane and The Last Sontaran
      • for both Mark Gatiss (Kenyon) and Bertie Carvel (Max Mallowan) see Sherlock here
      Series 4 story, The Unicorn and the Wasp (TX: 17/5/2008) depicts the events (albeit fictional) leading up to Agatha's disappearance. By the end of the episode, the action has moved from the atypical Christie 'whodunit' setting - the English country house - to Silent Pool, where the novelist's car was actually found abandoned. Here, Agatha (now played by Fenella Woolgar) is briefly possessed by the alien firestone, and falls unconscious. The Doctor now realises that this incident caused her memory loss, and takes the writer to Harrogate ten days later (ie. the day before she was discovered). In the TARDIS, the Doctor shows Donna a copy of Death in the Clouds (1935), a book in which a wasp sting is an apparent cause of death - so Agatha's amnesia was not complete. Even by the year 5 billion, Christie is still the best selling author of all time.

        Tuesday, 15 November 2011

        New Doctor Who Movie?

        Director David Yates (left) on the set of The Half Blood Prince

        Rumours of a new Doctor Who film surfaced (again) on twitter last night! The reputable Hollywood media trade magazine, Variety reported yesterday that the English film director, David Yates is working on a movie version of the "iconic sci-fi TV series"- see Daily Variey here. St. Helens-born Yates helmed the last four installments in the Harry Potter film franchise, and has now teamed up with Jane Tranter at BBC Worldwide in Los Angeles to develop Doctor Who for the big-screen.
        The only news so far confirmed by Yates is that Worldwide is "looking for [script] writers [from both sides of the Atlantic] now" and will take 2/3 years "to get it right" and that "it needs quite a radical transformation"! He added that "the notion of a time-travelling Time Lord is such a strong one, because you can express story and drama in any dimension.." and stressed that his film "would not follow on from the current TV series, but would take a completely fresh approach" - much like messrs Davies and Moffat in their successful revival.
        Well this "high-powered" attempt by Yates and Tranter will contain "a British sensibility" but it sounds like a reboot too far, and how can anyone "put aside" 50 years of continuity and lore?
        There has been no word yet on casting, but don't be surprised when Harry Potter actors are suggested from now on. Already there's talk of Alan Rickman as the new Doctor, and the role will inevitably go to a huge trans-atlantic draw, but I have always favoured John Hannah.
        (Here's a nice Radio Times movie timeline)

        Sunday, 6 November 2011

        Date With History: 1986

        Sir Alex Ferguson CBE was appointed manager of Manchester United FC exactly twenty-five years ago today. He is the longest serving manager in the club's history (overtaking Sir Matt Busby's record last December), and his tenure is the longest of all current League managers. Ferguson's reign has seen an era of success and dominance both in England and Europe, giving the Glaswegian a reputation as one of the most respected managers in football history.
        Under Ferguson, MUFC have won 37 trophies, including 12 Premier League titles - with a record 19th league success last season - and the Champions League twice. Knighted in 1999 for his services to the sport, Ferguson is 70 next month, and shows no sign of retiring yet.

        Tuesday, 1 November 2011

        Doctor Who Tops Hallowe'en Poll

        Digital Spy yesterday published the results of their Hallowe'en poll. The Tube Talk blog named Doctor Who as the 'Scariest TV show of all time' and cited the 2007 story Blink as perhaps the programme's creepiest adventure. Although the revived series receives special praise here (gas-mask zombies, Midnight, et al), the impact of the 'classic' era must not be forgotten. Since the Daleks first appeared, way back in 1963, Doctor Who has always sent viewers 'behind-the-sofa'. Other show in the top 10 include The X Files, Threads, and the more recent The Walking Dead. Read the full results here.

        Thursday, 13 October 2011

        Great Doctor Who Quotes #12

        "When I was a little boy, we used to live in a house that was perched halfway up the top of a mountain... there sat under a tree, an old man. A hermit, a monk. He'd lived under this tree for half his lifetime, so they said, and had learned the secret of life. So when my black day came, I went and asked him to help me.. I'll never forget what it was like up there. All bleak and cold... a few bare rocks with.. weeds.. and.. sludgy snow. It was just grey... The tree.. was ancient and twisted, the old man himself - he was as brittle and dry as a leaf in autumn... He just sat there, silently.. while I poured out my troubles. I was too unhappy even for tears.. When I'd finished, he lifted a skeletal hand and he pointed. [at] A flower. One of those little weeds. Just like a daisy.. I looked at it for a moment and suddenly I saw it through his eyes. It was simply glowing with life like a perfectly cut jewel, and the colours were deeper and richer than you could possibly imagine. It was the daisiest daisy I'd ever seen."

        - The Doctor, The Time Monster, Episode 6 (June 24th 1972)
        Written by Robert Sloman

        Monday, 10 October 2011

        The Doctor Who Experience: A Review

        I was lucky enough to visit the UK's latest Doctor Who exhibition recently. Situated at Olympia Two in Kensington, I had quite a trek from Earl's Court station, but did get to see a real Police Box which is stationed just outside. A more direct route is offered from Hammersmith tube station.

        Visitors first walk into the 'vortex' and enter a waiting area, which holds some Series 5 props: a Smiler, a Winder, Silurians, and an Ironclad Dalek. You are then ushered into the first viewing room (basically benches facing a wall-screen). In specially shot footage, the Doctor (Matt Smith) here delivers a lengthy "mad man in a box" commentary to what is effectively an extended trailer to his first season. As the music fades, a huge crack-in-time becomes vertical, flares white, and slowly opens to form a darkened doorway, through which you are guided. You now find yourself in the National Museum aboard Starship UK, and monitors flicker on to reveal the Doctor, again trapped inside the Pandorica! Using his sonic screwdriver, he summons the TARDIS, which actually seems to materialise in front of the visiting 'shoppers'. Passing through those famous double doors into the impressive console room, the Doctor now appears on the scanner, and instructs his new companions to pilot his ship. Leaving by the 'back door' takes you into a control room where three paradigm Daleks threaten you with extermination, until the Doctor intervenes and you move on again.

        From a dark and dry-iced corridor, the Weeping Angels menace your passage to the next level of the interactive Experience. Now provided with 3D glasses, 'shoppers' stand in a mock Underhenge chamber (complete with stone Dalek), and watch a brilliantly effective short film that features more monsters, like the Cybermen. The Doctor is then freed from his prison and banishes his enemies back into the swirling vortex.

        The second stage of the Experience is more akin to the traditional Doctor Who exhibitions, such as Blackpool, which I last visited shortly before it closed it's doors permanently in 2009. On exiting the 3D show, visitors are now permitted to use their cameras as you start to view props, costumes, monsters, sets, and even workshops, from the 'revived' then 'classic' eras.

        All eleven of the Doctor's costumes are displayed near the current TARDIS prop, and a (rather poor) Matt Smith waxwork. The outfits are complete originals, except those of the First and Second Doctors, which no longer survive (McCoy's jacket and later, Captain Jack's coat, are quite tatty). The Tenth Doctor's regeneration scene is played on a loop on a large, reconstructed and very impressive 'old' TARDIS set (last seen in The Doctor's Wife). Another console room (introduced in The Five Doctors) is presented nearby, with recent companion and TimeLord costumes, K9, the Melkur, and the Tom Baker era TARDIS prop. Another extensive hall displays a collection of Cyber-heads, and Davros here presides over the 'evolution' of his creations, from a 1963 Dalek to a paradigm Eternal.

        Also present are the Abzorbaloff, a Slitheen, an Ice Warrior, a Zygon, a trio of Sontarans, Cat nuns, the Empty Child, Robot K1, the Silents, the Hath, Judoon, the Face of Boe, a Ganger, a Sycorax, an Ood, and even Idris' costume with the 'junk' TARDIS. One of the best concepts here is a documentary that examines Delia Derbyshire's legacy, and other workshops include choreography in NuWho.

        The Experience has just extended it's residence in London to next February, then it moves to Cardiff as planned. For visiting times and ticket prices see here.

        Sunday, 9 October 2011

        Doctor Who in The Observer

        The Guardian website has posted an article from today's News Review section of The Observer, that asks "Is time up for Doctor Who?" Helen Lewis-Hasteley opens the debate (here) with this excellent point: with Who "..the BBC have more than a TV show, they have a national institution." So why split season six and move it around the schedules? And the next series looks set to be spread over 2012/13 "like some failed American import." She also praises the coup in commissioning Neil Gaiman's script, then confronting him with the typical budget restrictions that meant employing a "recycled Ood"!

        Fortunately, unlike the BBC's treatment of Doctor Who in the late 1980's, the Corporation now embraces the programme (albeit as one of their most lucrative exports), and as Steven Moffat is keen to reiterate, his show is safe. But did the perceived rift between our dear Showrunner, and BBC1 controller Danny Cohen, lead to the former's tweet that (his other vehicle) Sherlock didn't in fact affect "the scheduling of Dr Who." We shall see. The issue of the channel's inconsistent time-slot still remains though, which I believe has resulted in a ratings decrease (NOT slump, Daily Mail sheep) this year. And after the recent axing of sister show, Confidential, the fall-out from the BBC's cuts will be very telling too.

        Andrew Harrison then argues that this flagship series has "regenerated.. family viewing" and deserves a full and proper season for it's 50th anniversary year. His positive analysis of this year's ratings, and the show's success on iPlayer, are "figures that TV executives dream of."

        The writers also discuss the complaint that under Moffat, the programme is "too complicated for kids"; whether today's 45-minute episodes only have room for "bad characterisation"; and if these stories stand-up to repeated viewing like Harrison's favourite, City of Death. He prefers to think of Who as "a kids' show - one that adults love because they can share it with their own children, and with the part of themselves that is still a child." Harrison defends the healthy scares (like Cyber-conversion). They are "an essential part of a rounded upbringing." Helen however, regards the recent series more as "a grown-up drama" and "love[s] the fact that Doctor Who fans feel so possessive about the show." Harrison replies that "no sane person can sincerely love every aspect of " our show since it is now "so ridiculously diverse" akin to super-group Queen!

        Tuesday, 4 October 2011

        Great Doctor Who Quotes #11

        "..we've solved another riddle. The mystery of Agatha Christie.. tomorrow morning, her car gets found by the side of a lake. A few days later she turns up in a hotel in Harrogate with no idea of what just happened. No-one'll ever know.. [she] married again, saw the world, wrote and wrote.. Thing is, I don't think she ever quite forgot.. where is it? Here we go.. Somewhere in the back of her mind, it all lingered.. Look at the copyright page [passing Donna a copy of Death in the Clouds, "Facsimile edition, published in the year 5 billion!"]. People never stop reading them. She is the best selling novelist of all time. Well, no-one knows how they're going to be remembered.. Same thing keeps me travelling. Onwards?"

        - The Doctor, The Unicorn and the Wasp (17/5/2008)
        Written by Gareth Roberts

        Monday, 3 October 2011

        Doctor Who: The Gunpowder Plot Preview

        The fifth installment of The Adventure Games launches on the official BBC Doctor Who site, on October 31st. Just in time for Bonfire Night, The Gunpowder Plot is written by Phil Ford, developed by Sumo Digital, and produced by BBC Wales.
        The guest cast joining the TARDIS crew are: Phil Daniels, Ralf Little (as Guy Fawkes), Dan Starkey (who has played Sontarans in four TV stories, and for Big Finish), CBBC's Chris Johnson, Lizzie Hopley (see The Infinity Quest), and Emilia Fox as Lady Elizabeth Winters (also the voice of Dr Berenice Ward in Nevermore, BF, 2010).
        The story is set in the London of 1605, where Fawkes and his Protestant plotters plan to destroy the House of Lords, under which a crashed Rutan (last seen in 1977's Horror of Fang Rock) ship is actually buried.
        Follow this link for a trailer: Preview clip.
        The Doctor has encountered Fawkes and his conspirators before, in The Missing Adventures novel, The Plotters, by Gareth Roberts (Virgin, 1996). Here, the First Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Vicki become embroiled in a purely historical tale.

        Saturday, 1 October 2011

        Great Doctor Who Quotes #10

        "The circle of time is closing. You were there, on Skaro, at the very beginning of my creation... And the prophecy unfolds... The man who abhors violence. Never carrying a gun. But this is the truth, Doctor. You take ordinary people and fashion them into weapons. Behold your Children of Time, transformed into murderers. I made the Daleks, Doctor. You made this... Already, I have seen them sacrificed today, for their beloved Doctor. The Earth woman, who fell, opening the Subwave Network... How many more? Just think. How many have died? In your name? The Doctor. The man who keeps running, never looking back. Because he dare not, out of shame. This is my final victory, Doctor. I have shown you.. yourself."

        - Davros, Journey's End (July 5th 2008)
        Written by Russell T Davies

        Friday, 30 September 2011

        Great Doctor Who Quotes #9

        "And that's how I finally met the Doctor... and realised the truth... this isn't my whole life. It's not all spaceships and stuff. Cos I'm into all sorts of things. I like football. I like a drink. I like Spain. And if there's one thing I really, really love, then it's Jeff Lynne and the Electric Light Orchestra. Cos you can't beat a bit of ELO!"

        - Elton Pope, Love & Monsters (June 17th 2006)
        Written by Russell T Davies

        Wednesday, 21 September 2011

        Doctor Who: Christmas Special 2011 Preview

        The BBC today released details of this year's festive special, currently under production in Wales. Again written by Steven Moffat, the story's cast includes actors already featured in my Versus blogs: Claire Skinner, here playing Madge Arwell (see Vs. A Murder Is Announced); Bill Bailey
        (another star of Hot Fuzz,
        see here); Alexander Armstrong (see Vs. Murder Rooms); and Arabella Weir (see Vs. Randall & Hopkirk).
        This new Christmas adventure (already being compared to the Narnia saga) sees the Doctor posing as the caretaker of an old house in wartime Dorset, where evacuees Lily and Cyril now live with mum, Madge. See the official site for more info:
        New executive producer Caroline Skinner begins her tenure on Doctor Who with this story, which will be directed by another newcomer, Farren Blackburn.

        Friday, 16 September 2011

        The History of Pop Music

        Michael Putland's studio portrait of Dusty & the Pet Shop Boys, dressed as 1960's
        journalists. The shoot was for the cover of the 
        Nothing Has Been Proved
        ingle, recorded for the film, Scandal (December 1988).

        I've only just found this article, originally published in The Guardian on June 11th this year. Caroline Sullivan's series on the Top 50 key moments in pop history, places the Pet Shop Boys at No. 33. On August 10, 1987, they resurrected Dusty Springfield's career:

        "The Smiths were the first to collaborate with an iconic 60s female singer – Sandie Shaw – but the Pet Shop Boys struck gold by hooking up with arguably the most revered vocalist of her generation – Dusty Springfield. Their single together, What Have I Done to Deserve This?, was a win-win situation: the band got kudos for enticing Springfield into recording what was the classiest record the PSB ever made, her career got a new lease of life, and it reached No 2."

        Monday, 12 September 2011

        Tartan Noir: Glasgow

        The latest part of The A-Z of Crime on ITV3 represented the letter G with 'Glasgow'. Author Denise Mina, herself a Glaswegian, said that "Glasgow is the perfect city to write crime fiction for. It's small, there's a lot of crime.. a lot of poverty, and there's so many different textures.. Everybody knows everybody else.. people talk to each other.. what could be better really?" Her book, The Field of Blood (2004) is set in the city, and was recently adapted by BBC Scotland.

        The "king of Tartan Noir" Ian Rankin, also remarked that Glasgow has "got a history of gang culture, and murder, grim death.. sectarian violence.. it's a fascinating city." The programme then states that the city was put on the crime map by long-running ITV series, Taggart (1983-2011). Glasgow is described here as a character in it's own right in Glenn Chandler's stories, and is still the murder capital of Europe.

        Sunday, 31 July 2011

        New SFX Magazine Poll

        A new poll in the latest SFX magazine has been published to find readers' Top 100 Sci-Fi Icons of the 21st Century. The results include 10 characters from the Whoniverse/Torchwood, and the highlights are as follows:
        • 85 - Martha Jones
        • 82 - Rose Tyler
        • 71 - Rory Williams
        • 52 - Donna Noble
        • 44 - Gwen Cooper
        • 41 - Amy Pond
        • 27 - River Song
        • 5 - Ianto Jones
        • 3 - Jack Harkness
        • 2 - The Doctor

        Many 'icons' come from brilliant BBC shows like Being Human, and Life On Mars, and that other giant of British culure, Harry Potter took the No. 7 slot. The highest placed American character was Buffy Summers, at No. 4. Obviously, as a Whovian I'm biased, but I was stunned to see that the No. 1 position is taken by Mal Reynolds of Firefly! At least Sheldon Cooper would be pleased.

        Saturday, 9 July 2011

        Doctor Who Vs. Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD

        Based on the TV serial, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, the second Dalek movie was released in July 1966, but proved less successful than Dr Who and the Daleks.
        Peter Cushing and Roberta Tovey reprised their roles of Dr. Who and Susan, and were joined by new companions, Jill Curzon as Louise and Bernard Cribbins as PC Tom Campbell (replacing Ian and Barbara in the television version). Cribbins ultimately portrayed two Who companions - he was Donna Noble's grandfather, Wilfred Mott (Wendy Padbury had played Zoe Heriot on TV, then was cast as Jenny in Doctor Who and the Daleks in the Seven Keys to Doomsday in 1974).
        This sequel was again written by Terry Nation, David Whitaker, and (producer) Milton Subotsky, and directed by Gordon Flemyng.
        • Kenneth Watson (Craddock) appeared opposite Patrick Troughton in Kidnapped (1956), and then in The Wheel in Space, as Bill Duggan - according to IMDB, he was to play a farmer in The Time Monster, but was replaced by George Lee
        • Eileen Way (Old Woman) was Old Mother in 100,000 BC, and Karela in The Creature from the Pit - Outside 'classic' Who she had worked in: They Who Dare (1954) with William Russell; episodes of the BBC's Sunday Night Theatre opposite Roger Delgado [both also featured in Rendevous (1957) for TV and in the John Mills film, The Singer Not the Song (1961)], with Troughton, and Anneke Wills [both had featured in The Blakes (1955) too]; and the Kenneth More film, The Comedy Man (1964) with Jacqueline Hill
        • Geoffrey Cheshire (Roboman) was the Viking Leader in The Time Meddler, Garge in Devil's Planet, and Tracy in The Invasion
        • Philip Madoc (Brockley) is a prolific guest actor
        • Robert Jewell was again a Dalek operator, and David Graham and Peter Hawkins again provided the Dalek voices
        • Roger Avon (Wells) was also Saphadin in The Crusade, and Daxtar in The Traitors episode

        Monday, 6 June 2011

        Review of 'Random' by Craig Robertson

        Random is the debut novel of Craig Robertson, the latest in a long and distinguished line of 'Tartan Noir' writers. He once said that the Scottish "seem to be better at... reach[ing] the darker side of the human psyche... Many Scots also have a fondness for black humour that lends itself well to crime writing," and these crucial ingredients are certainly present in this excellent book.
        Glasgow is being terrorised by a serial killer the media have nicknamed 'the Cutter'. His random attacks appear motiveless until we learn of his fascination with that ultimate murderer, Jack the Ripper. This anonymous killer's study of the Ripper is only revealed in chapter 16, and he provides the reader with the usual salient facts of the infamous case: "Some said the Ripper was over-rated... In purely numerical terms [they are] probably right. But what they all forget, is that Jack got away with it. The single most famous serial killer in history yet still unknown.
        Some people think they know who Jack was... but they... can't know. They call themselves Ripperologists... Ask ten [of them] who killed those women and you will get eleven different answers... Five prostitutes... Victims of life. Jack killed... ripped them. But we don't know why [or] who. They say he was Queen Victoria's whoring grandson Eddy... driven mad by syphilis... it was the Queen's physician William Gull... her obstetrician John Williams. He was painter William Sickert... he was Carl Feigenbaum, a German sailor. He was an insane Polish Jew, Aaron Kosminski. It was the Ripper diary confessor James Maybrick or the bogus doctor Francis Tumblety. It was barrister Montague John Druitt, the abortionist Dr Thomas Cream, the Polish poisoner George Chapman or [Mary] Kelly's lover Joseph Barnett. It was them and it was a hundred others but it was none of them. It was Jack. No one knows who he was. Jack did what [he] had to do then he stopped. Disappeared... back into the London fog."
        We are then given our first clue to this killer's reasoning. Inspired by the Royal conspiracy, his fourth murder was actually motivated by revenge (the death of his daughter), and concealed amongst the other 5, which were truly random. The theory (advanced by Stephen Knight in 1976) is explained by this fictional killer: "It goes that 3 men worked together... Their plan... was to cover their true intentions by creating the myth of the Ripper. [They] were high establishment... connected to the Royal household and were set on protecting its interests... The bottom line is that... [Mary] Kelly knew too much and was prepared to tell. She had to be silenced. But the killing of Mary alone would have left a trail... motive could eventually have led [the police] to the truth. So the plan was devised... Kelly and her friends were slaughtered and the murders made to look the work of a complete madman. The silencing of Kelly was hidden amidst the other four. She was the needle. They were the haystack."
        Robertson's random killer can see "the beauty of it... made to look like madness, but in reality it was clinical, reasoned... I respected the logic" enough to emulate it.
        This murderer is not a Ripper copycat (see ITV's Whitechapel drama, and many more examples in written fiction for those [i]) but the media frenzy generated by the original Ripper, and the lure of an 18th century urban myth is strong enough to inspire news reporting even now. The contemporary newspapers christened and publicised the crimes of the Blackout Ripper (1942), Jack the Stripper (1964/5), the Camden Ripper (2000/02), the Ipswich Ripper (2006), and most famously the Yorkshire Ripper (1975 to 1980) and his hoaxer, Wearside Jack (1978/9). The Random killer taunts and manipulates the press as did the original Ripper via a series of letters 'From Hell'. He posts severed fingers to the police, then later to a reporter (also akin to the real Ripper's bloody parcel to George Lusk), and then dubs himself 'the Cutter' (just like the 'Dear Boss' letter signed by 'Jack') because he hates the media's nickname 'Jock the Ripper'. This name is also used by fellow 'Tartan Noir' writer, Val McDermid in Killing the Shadows (2001).
        Perhaps the most important aspect of the Whitechapel murders was the birth of tabloid journalism (alluded to in From Hell as creating the 20th century), and their almost symbiotic co-existence. Murder was part of life in Victorian London, and the Ripper's crimes may have been forgotten by history if it wasn't for newspapers like The Star. This was the first time that such a story attracted such attention, and even in the absence of today's omnipresent media gathering, the Ripper quickly went global, and his influence has remained since.
        We need to study the Whitechapel Murders in their wider context, not only the 5 canonical victims, but those committed between April 1888 and February 1891, to fully appreciate the 'power of the press.' This coverage has perpetuated for 123 years, and it only fuels the modern fascination with the world's most notorious murderer [ii] .
        Later, the Cutter's potted history of Scottish murders could easily be observations by the author on the emergence and current success of Scottish crime fiction: "Scotland gave the world television and the telephone, penicillin, the pneumatic tyre, the steam engine and the bicycle, radar, insulin, calculus and Dolly the sheep. But we are also right up there with the best of them when it comes to killing people... The best small murdering country in the world. Stick that on your tourist posters." Tartan Noir is indeed part of this "fine tradition" and is a significant Scottish cultural export.

        Notes [i] Unlikely Killer by Ricki Thomas features the 'Kopycat' Ripper, and in Michael White's The Art of Murder, another serial killer is actually inspired by Jack's secret journal. Here, the original Ripper escaped to America, a theory investigated at the time by both the police and a hungry press.
        [ii] Channel Five documentary, Tabloid Killer (24/6/10) examines the massive press coverage of the Whitechapel Murders.

        Friday, 29 April 2011

        Doctor Who: The Doctor's Wife Preview

        Neil Gaiman's Doctor Who episode, The Doctor's Wife, is probably the most anticipated script of Series 6. This acclaimed writer (pictured left) has hinted that his character Idris (Suranne Jones, pictured centre) is an "old acquaintance with a new face" and the story is a "love letter to the fans". Gaiman also told DWM that his adventure begins with something or someone we have not seen since The War Games (1969). The official BBC press release provides this synopsis:

        "The Doctor receives a distress signal from an old friend. Could there really be another living Time Lord out there? Hopes raised, he follows the signal to a junkyard planet sitting upon a mysterious asteroid in a Bubble universe, populated by a very strange family, as the time-travelling drama continues.
        The Doctor, Amy and Rory are given the warmest of welcomes by Auntie, Uncle and Nephew. But the beautiful and insane Idris greets them in a more unusual fashion – what is she trying to tell the Doctor? As the Doctor investigates, he unwittingly puts his friends in the gravest danger."
        So who or what is Idris, and can she really be the Doctor's wife? In Welsh mythology, King Idris was a giant whose seat was Cader Idris, a mountain ridge in Snowdonia. He was an astronomer who had the power to mete out madness, death, or even poetic inspiration. Idris was also an Islamic prophet (known as Enoch to Christians).
        The name itself is of Celtic origin (Latin=Idrus, English=Ider), meaning "ardent" or "righteous". Of most interest to Whovians, is the literal interpretation of this boy's name: "running lord" could easily apply to the Doctor himself. Indeed, at the top of the new season opener, The Impossible Astronaut, the Doctor declares that he's been "running" all his life.
        There has been much speculation that Idris is a TimeLady. Then who, or how? Or is she in fact a manifestation of a/the TARDIS? Remember the proto-TARDIS travel machines employed by the WarLord's race for their War Games? The acronym SIDRAT was used just once in that mammoth story, and it's meaning was only revealed 10 years later in Malcolm Hulke's novelisation: Space and Inter-Dimensional Robot All-purpose Transporter.
        If they survived the fate of the unnamed Aliens, did the SIDRATs end up on Gaiman's scrapyard planet? Or did the TimeLords confiscate the rogue time capsules and augment them with TARDIS technology to create an advanced, organic version (akin to the Type 102, see below), codenamed Idris? Why bother? Did they just scrap these inferior models, which were the result of stolen tech, and short-lived anyway?
        The BBC Books' Eighth Doctor adventures (EDA) range (1997-2005) featured a companion, called Compassion. She was born on 26th century Earth as Laura Tobin, and her race, the Remote, were originally human. Compassion first met the Doctor in Interference: Book One, and by the time of her final story, The Ancestor Cell, she had evolved into a living TARDIS (the Type 102). The Doctor and Fitz even used her to flee the TimeLords via her own Randomiser, and built-in weapons system.
        The revelation that Idris is in reality a time-machine in humanoid form (or even a reengineered stellar device) doesn't seem so outlandish then (what became of the Hand of Omega after destroying Skaro)? However, in Rise of the Cybermen, the Doctor says that his was the only surviving TARDIS in the universe, and we last saw secret TimeLord tech when the Daleks stole the Genesis Ark.
        The Doctor's Wife is broadcast on BBC1, on Saturday May 14th, and features the return of the Ood.
        The cast also includes Big Finish co-star Adrian Schiller (Uncle), Elizabeth Berrington (Auntie), and Michael Sheen (voice of House), who also appeared in The Deal (2003, Channel 4) as Cherie and Tony Blair. Their co-stars were Who guest actors David Morrissey, Ian Hanmore, John Normington, and Clare Clifford.

        Monday, 25 April 2011

        New John Simm Interview

        At the recent press launch for Series 6 in New York, Steven Moffat was asked if Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) could play the Master when he returns. Moffat remarked that John Simm wouldn't want to relinquish the role just yet, a view supported by an interview with Simm in today's The i newspaper.
        Talking to James Rampton, Simm discusses why he enjoys portraying anti-heroes: "I'm drawn to the dark side" says the actor, who won a whole new following when he played the Master, Doctor Who's unhinged, bottle-blond nemesis. "I prefer the Master [to the Doctor]... to be able to match David Tennant's Doctor-he couldn't be a pantomine villain twirling his moustache. He was insane, manic; but still the Doctor's equal... Such fun to play."
        "So would Simm like to get out the peroxide and play the Master again? "Well, the new Doctor, Matt Smith, is young, so they'll probably get someone from Skins to play the Master now" grins the actor. "All the same, Steven Moffat is a fantastic writer, so if he phoned, I'd love to have another go at the Master. Put that in please!"
        BBC1's new 3-part thriller, Exile, starring Simm, Jim Broadbent, and Olivia Colman (see Doctor Who Vs. Hot Fuzz airs next week.

        Wednesday, 20 April 2011

        A Tribute to Elizabeth Sladen (1948-2011)

        It is with utter disbelief and shock that I sit here and compose this memorial blog to Elizabeth Sladen, only two months after the loss of that other Doctor Who ambassador, Nicholas Courtney. Confirmation of her death followed massive internet speculation on twitter et al, last night, and Whovians, young and old, are stunned. Tributes, led by Russell T Davies, continue to pour in from all over the world. John Barrowman of Torchwood called her the matriarch of Who, and to Tom Baker, she is "Darling Lis". Sladen has also been remembered by Steven Moffat, David Tennant, Finn Jones, Matt Smith, Noel Clarke, Mark Gatiss, Stephen Fry, Nichola Bryant, Colin Baker, Mary Tamm, Murray Gold, Alexander Armstrong, her agent Roger Carey, and the offices of Corrie, Newsround, and the Liverpool Playhouse. The Sun said she was "the greatest Doctor Who girl ever" and most fans would agree.
        Liz Sladen was born Elizabeth Trainor in Liverpool, on February 1st 1948. She attended drama school for 2 years after leaving grammar school, then began work at the Playhouse, where she met her future husband, Brian Miller. Sladen's first, uncredited, screen appearance was in the film Ferry Cross the Mersey (1965) as an extra, then she moved to repertory theatre, in productions like Othello. Her first television work was on ITV Playhouse (1968), then 6 episodes of Coronation Street in 1970. She later appeared in Doomwatch, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, The Bill, and Peak Practice.
        When Katy Manning decided to exit Doctor Who in 1973, Z Cars producer Ron Craddock recommended Sladen to his counterpart on Who, Barry Letts. She was cast as journalist Sarah Jane Smith, and her debut story was The Time Warrior, which also introduced her future nemesis, the Sontarans. Sladen stayed with the programme for three and a half seasons alongside Jon Pertwee, then Tom Baker, before leaving in The Hand of Fear. She returned as Sarah Jane in the show's first ever TV spin-off, K9 and Company (1981), then in The Five Doctors, Dimensions in Time (1993), and Downtime (1995). Sladen also featured in The Paradise of Death (for Radio 5), and The Ghosts of N-Space (Radio 2, 1996), opposite Pertwee and Courtney again, and also in 2 series of Sarah Jane Smith for Big Finish audios (2002/2005) with her daughter Sadie.
        With the successful revival of the series, Sladen was invited back for School Reunion (2006), with John Leeson who returned to voice K9, and the current TimeLord, Tennant. This led RTD to create the award-winning The Sarah Jane Adventures, which began with a special on New Year's Day, 2007. Four full seasons followed, and the drama remains the most watched show ever on CBBC. Series 2 included Courtney's final TV appearance as the Brigadier, whilst the Doctor also returned, in S3 (Tennant) and S4 (Smith, here with Sarah Jane's predecessor, Jo Grant played again by Manning). Sladen also worked on Doctor Who again, on the S4 finale episodes, and had a cameo in The End of Time, Part 2. It is unclear if the BBC will screen the 3 remaining Sarah Jane stories, but CBBC plan to screen a tribute programme this Saturday.
        Phil Collinson and others have noted Sladen's unique ability to enchant and inspire two generations of children, 30 years apart, and that legacy is immense.
        Elizabeth Sladen died yesterday after a long and private battle with cancer, and is survived by her actor husband of 42 years, and her actress daughter.

        Thursday, 17 March 2011

        Doctor Who Target Book Reprints

        An initial package of six classic Target book titles are to be republished this summer, all complete with their original and iconic Chris Achilleos covers. Currently long since deleted and much sought after, these reprinted Doctor Who novelisations will appeal to old and new readers alike.
        Released by BBC Books in July and priced at £4.99 each, the titles are as follows: 
        • The Daleks by David Whitaker was the first TV serial to be adapted as a novel, and was published in hardback in November 1964, less than a year after the story was shown. Paperback editions were then issued in 1965 (Armada) and 1973 (Target).
        • The Crusaders (based on serial P) also by Whitaker was first published in 1966.
        • The Cybermen (based on The Moonbase) by Gerry Davis, 1975.
        • The Abominable Snowmen (based on serial NN) by Terrance Dicks, 1974.
        • The Auton Invasion (based on Spearhead from Space) also by Dicks, 1974.
        • The Cave Monsters (based on The Silurians) by Malcolm Hulke, 1974.
        The novels include new forewords from writers Neil Gaiman, Charlie Higson, Gareth Roberts, Stephen Baxter, Russell T Davies, and Dicks, respectively.

        Sunday, 6 March 2011

        Doctor Who: Ripper's Curse #3 Preview

        Story - Tony Lee
        Artwork - R P Rayner
        Cover - T L Edwards
        Issued - April 2011
        Part 3 of Ripper's Curse (Vol. 2, Issue 4): The future itself is now in a state of flux, but Mary Kelly is still dead. The Doctor realises that his actions have led to more canonical Ripper victims than history recorded, and Amy is remembered as next to be murdered. Can they find her before this future becomes real?
        There are further similarities to Matrix here: altered timelines, and the Doctor's companion portrayed as a potential Ripper victim.

        Saturday, 5 March 2011

        Doctor Who: Ripper's Curse #2 Preview

        Story - Tony Lee
        Artwork - R P Rayner
        Covers - T L Edwards (left) and Chris Samnee (right, courtesy of
        Issued - March 2011
        Part 2 of Ripper's Curse (Vol. 2, Issue 3): Jack the Ripper has been captured! The Doctor is in custody accused of the Whitechapel Murders, whilst the real killer is following Amy. What connects her to Mary Kelly, and how has Rory become chief of police?
        The alternative, unused version of Samnee's cover was dropped by IDW because of the BBC's strict "no knives" policy (despite a story that centres around the grisly murder of prostitutes).
        My favourite Doctor Who novel, Matrix, by Mike Tucker and Robert Perry, also presents the Doctor as a Ripper suspect.

        Thursday, 3 March 2011

        Doctor Who: Ripper's Curse #1 Preview

        Story - Tony Lee
        Artwork - Richard Piers Rayner
        Cover - Tommy Lee Edwards
        Issued - February 2011
        Published - IDW (Idea and Design Works), USA
        The ongoing Doctor Who comic-book series from IDW presents part 1 of Ripper's Curse (Vol. 2, Issue 2): The TARDIS lands in the East End of London in 1888. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory soon become embroiled in the hunt for history's most infamous murderer, Jack the Ripper!
        The Doctor has investigated the Whitechapel Murders before, in Matrix (BBC Books, 1998). Here, the Valeyard travels to Victorian London and assumes the identity of Jack. He uses the killings to power the Dark Matrix (a computer store of the TimeLords' evil impulses), and plans to unleash it's contents into the universe and gain himself a true body. The Seventh Doctor escapes the Valeyard's influence by sealing his conscious mind in the telepathic circuit of the TARDIS, and regains control in time to prevent Ace from becoming the Ripper's sixth victim.

        Wednesday, 23 February 2011

        A Tribute to Nicholas Courtney (1929-2011)

        Doctor Who alumni Nicholas Courtney, the actor who portrayed the unflappable Brigadier for 40 years, sadly died yesterday after a long battle with cancer.
        He was born William Nicholas Stone Courtney, on December 16th 1929, in Cairo, Egypt. The son of a British diplomat, he was educated in France and Kenya, and could speak French, Arabic, and Latin. After his National Service he decided not to pursue a career in the Army, and he joined the Weber Douglas Academy (where he won the Margaret Rutherford medal). He studied drama for 2 years, then worked in repertory theatre in Northampton, before moving to London. His first TV role came in 1957, and before becoming a regular cast member on Who, he appeared in The Saint, The Avengers, The Champions, and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).
        Courtney's long association with Who began in 1965 with the part of Space Security agent, Bret Vyon, opposite William Hartnell (director Douglas Camfield had originally considered Courtney for the role of King Richard in The Crusade). Camfield then cast him as Captain Knight in The Web of Fear (1968), but when David Langton gave up his role of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, Courtney was given that part instead. Promoted to Brigadier, Lethbridge-Stewart returned in The Invasion (again opposite Patrick Troughton), and now headed the British section of the United Nations (later, Unified) Intelligence Taskforce. UNIT was devised to protect Earth from alien incursions, and it was for this recurring military role in the 'UNIT family' that Courtney is best known.
        The Brigadier featured in 16 Jon Pertwee serials, including a dual role for Inferno, and he delivered the immortal "chap with wings, five rounds rapid" line in The Daemons. He returned for appearances opposite TV Doctors, Tom Baker (Robot, Terror of the Zygons); Peter Davison (Mawdryn Undead, The Five Doctors); Colin Baker (Dimensions in Time); and Sylvester McCoy (Battlefield, with Lethbridge-Stewart now married to Doris).
        Courtney reprised the Brigadier for Big Finish, now working with Paul McGann in Minuet in Hell (2001); with David Tennant (here a UNIT Colonel) in The Wasting (2005); and with Unbound Doctor David Warner in Sympathy for the Devil, and Masters of War (2008).
        Lethbridge-Stewart also featured in video drama Downtime (1995); BBC radio plays The Paradise of Death and The Ghosts of N-Space; Death Comes to Time for BBCi (2001); and more recently in The Sarah Jane Adventures: Enemy of the Bane.
        In 1997, Courtney became honorary president of DWAS: the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, and later wrote his autobiography, Five Rounds Rapid and Still Getting Away With It.
        Outside Who, Courtney was seen in TV dramas Minder, All Creatures Great and Small, and The Bill; sitcoms Only Fools and Horses, Yes Prime Minister, and French Fields; on stage in The Rocky Horror Show (1995); and in films Bullseye (1990) and Incendiary (2008).
        Courtney is survived by his second wife Karen, and his two children from his first marriage.
        I had the pleasure of meeting Nicholas Courtney at a Doctor Who convention in Liverpool about 20 years ago, and he was a complete gentleman (his companion, JNT, was a surly sod though). He will be greatly missed by all in fandom.