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