Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Great Doctor Who Quotes #34

"I'm afraid I'm much too old to be a pioneer. Although I was once amongst my own people... We're much too far away from home, my granddaughter and I... You wanted advice you said. I never give advice. Never. But I might just say this to you, always search for truth. My truth is in the stars and yours is here."

- The Doctor, The Daleks, Episode 7: The Rescue 
(February 1st 1964)
Written by Terry Nation

Sunday, 26 February 2012

The Pioneers of Doctor Who

"The creators of Doctor Who were a scandal" writes Charlie Jane Anders for io9.

As "one of the most successful television shows of all time" approaches it's fiftieth anniversary, the io9 science and media blog examines the origins of Doctor Who in an insightful  interview with Waris Hussein. The programme's very first director took part in the Doctor Who in the Sixties panel at the recent Gallifrey One convention in Los Angeles.
Born in Lucknow, India in 1938, Hussein was only 24 when he teamed up with the BBC's only female producer, and a pioneering Canadian TV maker to create a TV legend.
The fledgling series "was a small show that [was] expected to run for a few episodes, and then vanish forever. The show had a tiny studio and huge cameras, and a shoestring budget. But the people who were making the show were outsiders who were anathema to the [corporation's] entrenched culture."
Anders writes: "Hussein talked a lot.. about [how] the BBC tried to starve the show of resources - he wanted to do all sorts of ambitious tracking shots, but was stuck with cameras bigger than the people operating them. And they were trapped in Studio D at Lime Grove [which was] the size of a shoebox, where they were trying to accomplish ambitious shots like having [the travellers].. run into [the TARDIS] and emerge inside a giant control room." Fellow panelist William Russell said that "his heart sank.. when he first heard they were going to be crammed into" the ancient studio. "Not only was Doctor Who science fiction, which the old guard.. were highly suspicious of, but it was being created by the wrong sort of people - it's originator, Sydney Newman, was a newly hired [Head of Drama], originally from [Toronto]. And Newman brought in a young production assistant [from ABC], Verity Lambert, to be the show's first producer - junior director, Hussein himself, took on the first four episodes. For the very old-fashioned, homogenised BBC, the [trio] were" not really trusted to be the architects of new programming, "even if Doctor Who had been something they approved of."
"Hussein said that women producers did not exist [then]. So [the series was] already innovative in concept, and [also in] the person who's going to deal with it."
The panel, which also included Maureen O'Brien (Vicki), "talked about how the first Doctor, William Hartnell, wasn't just a cantankerous old man - he was also a very traditional Englishman, who wasn't used to the idea of [working] women.. he didn't know what to make of [his new director], an East Indian. Thus Hartnell took a lot of convincing that an Asian man and a young woman were going to be up to their jobs. [At] the first [meeting that] Hussein and Lambert had with [the actor], he seemed reluctant to take on the role, and they almost gave up. In the end, they decided to have a second lunch with Hartnell, [and here].. it became clear that [he] wanted them to prove their [pedigrees]. But over time, Hussein and Hartnell developed a tremendous mutual respect, and they all became a great team.. All his prejudices fell away."
When Anders next spoke to "Hussein after the panel, he explained that not surprisingly, the regime at the BBC had very 'subtle' ways of expressing their distrust of [newcomers].. like himself and [the new producer]. Not only that, but Doctor Who was made outside the Children's Department.. instead, it was made by the new Serials division, and they despised the" embryonic series.
"Given that everybody involved with Doctor Who was" viewed as outsiders, "the BBC foisted [upon] them.. an executive producer, Mervyn Pinfield. Even his name was Dickensian, said Hussein.. he represented traditional drama in the old-fashioned sense - while Hussein saw himself as a young, radical, ambitious director struggling.. with ancient equipment."
"And when the show came to shoot its first pilot, it was basically a disaster - nothing went right technically, and the performances were pretty terrible. Hartnell's Doctor was intensely unpleasant and kind of scary [an anti-hero in fact], and his granddaughter Susan was cold and exaggeratedly alien. After the pilot was shot, Newman took Lambert and Hussein out to dinner and said that by rights, he should fire them both - but instead, he was going to give them a second chance at filming" the opening episode.
"Perhaps some of the tension that Hussein and company were feeling came out in that first version of the pilot  - but also, the script was much darker and more intense. So for the [remount of An Unearthly Child], they deliberately softened the character of the Doctor." Hussein states that he would have prefered to keep the "edgy" original, but Newman over-ruled him: "Don't forget, we were fighting the system. So we softened some aspects of it, because we wanted young people to identify [with the characters]."
Hussein also directed " Marco Polo: the fourth story, in which the Doctor travels across Asia and meets Kublai Khan. Hussein praised the gorgeous set design, and the versatile sets, which could be re-dressed as different way stations at each phase of the journey."
Finally, Hussein maintains that "the central mystery of Doctor Who was the relationship between the Doctor and Susan — how could she be his granddaughter? What was their relationship, really? This was as big a mystery, to him, as how you could get a giant control room inside a tiny Police Box."

Read the full interview here.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Doctor Who: More Series 7 News

"What we know so far.. As filming begins on the upcoming series, here's a round-up of what to expect" writes Paul Jones in the Radio Times:
Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Steven Moffat turned up for their first day back at work in Cardiff today as filming got under way on the seventh season of Doctor Who. There's a lot we still don't know about the series, of course, but here are some things we do know, and some others we can make educated guesses about... 
Which writers will be involved?
Being Human creator Toby Whithouse will be writing an episode. He previously penned series two's School Reunion, series five’s The Vampires of Venice, and the eerie The God Complex from last year.
Chris Chibnall - who wrote series three story 42 and the Silurian two-parter (2010) - is also confirmed. 
Mark Gatiss's involvement remains unofficial but he says he'll be back to write for the new season. Steven Moffat’s Sherlock collaborator has been involved since the programme's revival, having written series one episode The Unquiet Dead, series two’s The Idiot's Lantern, series five's Victory of the Daleks, and last year's episode, Night Terrors.  
Having already been given the honour of resurrecting the redesigned Daleks - and as tight as he is with Moffat - we wouldn’t bet against Gatiss being involved in bringing back a 'classic' era monster again (see below).
Meanwhile, showrunner and lead writer Steven Moffat will, of course, be writing the last episode to feature Rory and Amy (see below).
Who'll be directing?
Saul Metzstein, whose previous credits include Micro Men – BBC4’s comedy drama about Clive Sinclair – is the first confirmed director, though NuWho alumnus Richard Clark (Gridlock, The Lazarus Experiment, The Doctor's Wife, and Night Terrors) has hinted on twitter that he’ll be back  this year too.
Amy and Rory’s departure
We know The Ponds are leaving partway through this series in a story Karen Gillan has called “the best ever” and a “damn good” exit and Steven Moffat has warned will be "heartbreaking". 
In terms of exactly when Rory and Amy will be off, Toby Whithouse said recently at the SFX Weekender sci-fi convention that his episode would be third in the series and would be “one of the final ones” to feature the pair.
And since Moffat and Whithouse both appear to be writing a Pond episode, it sounds like the couple's departure could be part of a story that spans more than one show (Harry Potter actor, Mark Williams is thought to be playing Rory's dad). 
Will River Song return?
Steven Moffat hinted very strongly at the press conference for the 2011 Christmas special that River Song would be back, and we know he loves writing the character. Further hints from Alex Kingston, plus the fact there remain several points on River’s timeline we’ve not yet seen, and that her mum is about to make her departure, make it likely River will put in an appearance.
Which monsters will be back?
Producer Marcus Wilson told DWM that two monsters from the original run would be back in series seven. On the one hand, you might think it’s about time to see the revamped Daleks return; on the other, Steven Moffat said only last year that he intended to give them a rest for while. So “classic” could well mean something or someone we haven’t seen since Doctor Who was rebooted… (Gatiss' script is rumoured to feature the Ice Warriors).
When will the series start and how long will it be?
An autumn start is predicted – after all, we’d expect to see some episodes before the next Christmas special – but a gap in transmission seems likely and we may well see less than half of the series in 2012, especially since 2013 is the big year for the show – its 50th anniversary – so it’s likely to be packed full of Doctor Who.
In January, Steven Moffat told Radio Times the series would feature “at least 14 episodes”. Assuming that takes the Christmas special into account, it could mean another 13 parts, or it could mean more, including, perhaps, an Easter special…
Is this Matt Smith's last series?
Speaking at this year’s National Television Awards, Matt left us in a bit of confusion, on one hand suggesting an approaching exit - "The truth is that I've got another year left... I've got a year of Who and I'll take it from there…” - on the other, saying: “I'm here for the future, I love making the show. I have no plans to leave.”
But it's not the first hint Matt's dropped that he'll be departing sooner rather than later, we know he has one eye on Hollywood, and surely the 50th anniversary needs a regeneration - so our money's on this being his last full series...

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Why Mark Gatiss Should Write a Doctor Who Biopic

"A re-creation of the Time Lord's genesis would be a perfect 50th birthday treat" writes David Brown in the Radio Times:

Next year will be Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary and who knows what surprises there are in store. Past incarnations reuniting to save the universe? Matt Smith’s Doctor regenerating in the final moments of a feature-length episode? 
During Saturday’s Graham Norton show on BBC Radio 2, the host raised the possibility of a previously unconsidered idea – a drama documenting the programme's genesis back in 1963.
Norton's guest, Mark Gatiss, was quick to demur: “Am I writing a film about it? No,” he said, before playfully remarking that he was scribbling thoughts down on the back of his hand. “What a good idea that would be,” he confessed.
And yes, what a terrific notion it is. A re-creation of that bygone period in television production when young producer Verity Lambert was trying to carve out a career at a sexist BBC and Canadian Sydney Newman was coming up with the concept of a time machine bigger on the inside than it was on the outside. 
Then there’s Delia Derbyshire, the musical pioneer who created that otherworldly theme music; plus the casting of William Hartnell as the original Doctor. What scope there is for a well-produced bio-drama.
There is a positive precedent for this kind of project. In December 2010, Corrie celebrated its half-century with the sight of a tram careening off its tracks and onto those Weatherfield cobbles. Yet by far the most moving tribute was BBC4’s The Road to Coronation Street, an evocation of Granada at the start of the 1960s, when young scriptwriter Tony Warren was attempting to get his vision of northern backstreets onto our screens.
This 90-minute piece, penned by one-time Street archivist and scriptwriter Daran Little, scooped a Bafta for best single drama. Surely, the same could be achieved for Doctor Who, a programme every bit as revolutionary and enduring as the Street? 
And who better to pen the screenplay than Gatiss? He's famous for being familiar with the more recondite corners of Doctor Who history, and has a track record in TV drama that takes in everything from Sherlock and Agatha Christie’s Poirot to exploits with the Time Lord himself.
It’s this combination of insider knowledge and lifelong passion that makes Gatiss the ideal choice to conjure up Who in its nascent years. Such a production would be a perfect addition to all the birthday celebrations in 2013. The story of the Doctor’s very first adventure deserves to be told.

Doctor Who and the Nearly Leela's

SFX magazine has revealed intriguing details of the production subtitles featured on the new DVD release of The Face of Evil. Writer Dave Golder has listed all the actresses who auditioned for the part of Leela in 1976. Before Louise Jameson was eventually cast, twenty-five other candidates were interviewed by producer Philip Hinchcliffe. The most well-known names considered for the role were Carol Drinkwater (Helen Heriot in All Creatures Great and Small), Colette Gleeson (she later starred in Doctor Who as Caris in Meglos), Heather Tobias, Michelle Newell, and Susan Wooldridge. Besides Jameson, perhaps the most famous actress seen was Pamela Salem - she actually appeared in the next serial, The Robots of Death as Toos, and  later in Remembrance of the Daleks (1988) as Rachel Jensen.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Doctor Who: The Visitation Remembered

Part one of The Visitation aired exactly thirty years ago today. The Target novelisation (title #69 in the range) was published later in 1982. Not only was the book the first Target title that I bought, it's also the very first item of Doctor Who mrechandise in my ever expanding collection.
Many hundreds of pounds later, I still love this story, one of Peter Davison's finest, and cherish my dog-eared book. Richard Mace (Michael Robbins) makes a great (though cowardly) highwayman-cum-companion, and the Terileptil baddies really deserve a rematch with the Doctor, even if it's just for destroying the sonic screwdriver!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Noel Coward, the original lyrical gangster

"There Are Bad Times Just Around The Corner" (1952)
Lyrics by Noel Coward (1899-1973)
Performed by Robbie Williams
Released on Twentieth Century Blues (1998)

They’re out of sorts in Sunderland
And terribly cross in Kent
They’re dull in Hull
And the Isle of Mull
They’re seething with discontent
They’re nervous in Northumberland
And Devon is down the drain
They’re filled with wrath on the Firth of Forth
And sullen on Salisbury plain
In Dublin they’re depressed lads
Maybe because they’re Celts
For Drake is heading west, lads
And so is everyone else
Hurray! hurray! hurray!
Misery’s here to stay
There are bad times just around the corner
There are dark clouds hurtling through the sky
And it’s no good whining
About a silver lining
For we know from experience they won’t roll by
With a scowl and a frown we’ll keep our peckers down
And prepare for depression and doom and dread
We’re going to unpack our troubles from our old kit bag
And wait until we drop down dead
They’re nervous in Nigeria
They’re all going crazy in Crete
In Bucharest they’re so depressed
They’re frightened to cross the streets
In Maine the melancholia
Is deeper than tongue can tell
In Monaco all the croupiers know
They haven’t a hope in hell
In far away Australia
Each wallaby’s well aware
The world’s a total failure
Without any time to spare
Hurray! hurray! hurray!
Suffering and dismay
There are bad times just around the corner
The horizon is gloomy as can be
There are black birds over
The greyish cliffs of Dover
And the rats are preparing to leave the BBC
We’re an unhappy breed and very bored indeed
When reminded of something that Nelson said
While the press and the politicians nag, nag, nag
We’ll wait until we drop down dead
There are bad times just around the corner
And the outlook’s absolutely vile
There are home fires smoking from Windermere to Woking
And we’re not going to tighten our belt and
Smile smile smile
At the sound of shots
We’d just as soon as not
Get a hot water bottle and go to bed
We’re going to unpack our troubles from our old kit bag
And wait until we drop down dead
I like your story
Land of hope and glory
Wait until we drop down dead

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Great Doctor Who Quotes #33

"Rory! That's a relief! I thought I had burst out of the wrong cake. Again. That reminds me, there's a girl standing outside in a bikini. Can someone let her in, give her a jumper? Lucy. Lovely girl. Diabetic. Now then, Rory, we need to talk about your fiancee. She tried to kiss me. Tell you what though, you're a lucky man, she's a great kisser! Funny how you can say something in your head and it sounds fine."

- The Doctor, The Vampires from Venice (May 8th 2010)
Written by Toby Whithouse

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

More Awards For Doctor Who

The annual SFX magazine awards were held at their third Weekender event in Prestatyn, North Wales on Saturday.
Season six of Doctor Who won four more prizes in the readers' poll:
Best TV Show, Matt Smith for Best Actor, and Alex Kingston for Best Actress (beating co-star Karen Gillan). Writer Neil Gaiman received the Screenwriting Excellence Award for The Doctor's Wife.
SFX also launched the Elizabeth Sladen Award this year, which recognises contributions to children's sci-fi/fantasy, and it is apt that The Sarah Jane Adventures is the first recipient.

In other news, the actress Emma Watson has become the favoured successor to Gillan, in an online poll. announced it's results on Monday - Zooey Deschanel and Anna Friel polled in second and third place, whilst the top-ranked actor was John Boyega.
Another Harry Potter connection was reported this week, when Daniel Radcliffe ruled himself out of taking the lead role in David Yates' planned Doctor Who film. He said "that Matt Smith.. does a wonderful job" in the show.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Great Doctor Who Quotes #32

"Oh yes, I can [remember my family] when I want to. And that's the point, really. I have to really want to, to bring them back in front of my eyes. The rest of the time they.. sleep in my mind and I forget. And so will you. Oh yes, you will. You'll find there's so much else to think about. To remember. Our lives are different to anybody else's. That's the exciting thing, that nobody in the universe can do what we're doing."

- The Doctor, The Tomb of the Cybermen 
Written by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Great Doctor Who Quotes #31

"On my travels.. Ian, I have come to believe many things I'd previously doubted. For instance, when I was a boy in Venice, they told me that in Cathay there was a stone that burned. I did not believe, but there is such a stone, I have seen it. And if stones burn, why not a caravan that flies? Birds fly, I have even seen fish that fly. You are asking me to believe that your caravan can defy the passage of the sun? Move not merely from one place to another, but from today into tomorrow, today to yesterday? No Ian, that I cannot believe."

- Marco Polo, Marco Polo (1964)
Written by John Lucarotti