REVIEW: Doctor Who 2015 season

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The following are reviews I have written for Gallifrey Times and I thought I would put them all together in one place on this blog, enjoy!


10. Face the Raven 7/10

Face the Raven can be described as a game of two halves, not in terms of duration but there is a clear divide between the story and then Clara’s death. Firstly the story. Returning character Rigsy provides a useful conduit to draw the TARDIS to modern day London, it’s always London. There is plenty of intrigue with the Torchwood ‘aliens amongst us’ mantra, set in a Harry Potter/Diagon Alley environment. The countdown tattoo is also an element borrowed from Justin Timberlake/Anna Seyfried movie ‘In Time’ but it does grip the viewer as does the intriguing murder mystery which sadly turns out to simply be the ruse for a trap. So we must now address the second half, the demise of Clara Oswald. For an actress who has been in the show since 2012, she possibly deserved a more publicised send off, occurring largely under the radar.

I was not very emotional about it all but I’m sure plenty of others were. Unfortunately a precedent has been set that a character’s death rarely prevents that character from reappearing, Clara in particular. Perhaps having the latest issue of DWM on the coffee table didn’t help with the sense that it is not the last we see of Clara. It seemed a very innocuous way to go too and boy did they milk it for all it was worth. I’d be interested to see the script, Jenna must’ve had 3 pages of lines to learn. After so many years on the show she probably deserved more publicity that this was her last but it almost certainly is not.

Recently so much has been made of the time shift viewing figures so it is a brave call to drop a huge sea changer which lots of viewers will inevitably have spoiled before they have a chance to watch it.
The real test of this episode will be how it is followed up. The Doctor’s behaviour, attitude and emotion can elevate this episode, like Utopia in 2007 which although thin on content had enormous repercussions for the remainder of the series and as a result it is more highly thought of. However the last word must go to Jenna Coleman who has hopefully enjoyed her time on the show as much as viewers have enjoyed watching her adventures.


9. Sleep No More 5/10

This week Doctor Who ventured into the ‘found footage’ genre popularised by movies such as The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield, the latter being one of my all time favourite films. The episode titled Sleep No More is a definite departure from the norm, there’s no title sequence or theme tune for a start, and should rightly be praised for doing something different with the Doctor Who format. With an intriguing plot centred around sleep deprivation technology, an eery atmosphere and a frightening monster it has all the ingredients to deliver an instant classic. However, the result falls flat and leaves the viewer scratching their head with no resolution to the peril whatsoever.

Firstly, a programme which begins with someone telling the audience not to watch is immediately asking for trouble and ridicule, even if it is later explained in the dramatic but far from satisfying conclusion. Similarly, despite an attempt to deliver a ‘found footage’ episode it stops short of embracing the genre. It is less ‘found footage’ and more of a holiday video edited together with a tedious commentary which slows the action. If done properly the story would begin with a UNIT (or other military) date stamp or record entry and present footage taken from security camera recordings. Like a black box recorder on a plane, there is no editing just the presentation of evidence. Instead we get ‘found footage lite’ with POV shots akin to Channel 4’s Peep Show, merged together with CCTV material. Ultimately this is explained away at the end and is probably an attempt not to alienate the regular audience.

A lot of debate will now centre on the conclusion with it probably being very decisive. In my mind it seemed muddled, left open for a second part or sequel which doesn’t appear to be forthcoming from the Next Time trailer. I like that occasionally the Doctor might not win, using the TARDIS to escape a situation he cannot change, it adds unpredictability. But this didn’t feel like that, the Doctor and Clara were off to Neptune and the sandmen were coming so why won’t we see what happens next?

Other irritants included Elaine Tan’s overuse of the word ‘pet’, the repeated feel of theCold Blood (2012) homage to Alien and the way Bethany Black was utilised. After the positive use of deaf actress Sophie Stone in Under the Lake where she was the commanding officer, Black as the first transgender person to appear in the show is sadly reduced to a drone of low intelligence.

The sandmen themselves were classic Doctor Who monsters but don’t be mistaken this is not a complement. They are humanoid creatures, easier to realise in production but are strikingly similar to other efforts such as Ballal the Exxilon (Death to the Daleks, 1974) in the classic series and the zombie creatures from Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS(2013) in the modern era. Their creation is simple to comprehend and interesting to consider. However, things get very sketchy when the dust in your eye has the ability to observe through a hosts eye, an attempt to explain away the POV camerawork.

In conclusion, Sleep No More provides engaging viewing with scares and atmosphere aplenty. It does however fail to fully embrace the genre it is attempting to replicate, with a baffling finale that left this viewer ruing a missed opportunity.


8. The Zygon Inversion 7/10

The uncomfortable feeling last week was even nearer the knuckle right from the start with a plane being blown out of the sky, just like a shocking news story which has dominated the media recently.

I liked the concept of a conscious person inside a Zygon pod, akin to a form of ‘locked in syndrome’. However it allowed for the episode to become very Jenna Coleman centred. Coleman is a great actress and it’s nice to see her given an opportunity to do something different. But it felt completely wrong for the Doctor to be squaring up against Clara, even a Zygon version. The Zygons themselves were under-utilised, with the exception of one tremendous scene in a mini mart and the distressing suicide of a peaceful Zygon.  The ultimate conclusion boiled down to an intense game of Deal or No Deal with no payoff. The status quo was restored, there were two Osgoods, Zygons and humans still on Earth. So what did the story accomplish? Not a lot really.

The saving grace however is Peter Capaldi who was simply mesmeric. I’m starting to run out of superlatives for his consistently supreme performances. That speech immediately goes down as one of the greatest delivered by a Doctor. At a time when Doctor Who’s position in the schedules is being debated I’m getting concerned that the show is going away from it’s traditional family viewership. This season more so than others has delivered episodes which are very dialogue heavy and with less action, alienating the younger members of the audience. As an adult I’m all for this to continue and an 8pm broadcast time would also be appropriate. In the meantime, this story was gripping, intellectually stimulating and deeply political. I just wish we had more Zygons!


7. The Zygon Invasion 8/10

The Zygons are back, hurrah! Of course they had appeared in the 50th anniversary special ‘The Day of the Doctor’ and we are treated to a couple of clips from that story as an introduction. But this marks the first proper Zygon story in 40 years. I had issues early on with the plot. Where did the figure of 20 million Zygons come from? Also, only those in the Black Archive would’ve forgotten if they were human or Zygon. Have the Zygons been given new identities or duplicating? When did Zygons get the ability to expel electric charges? We see Osgood in New Mexico so how does she end up in Turmezistan, Zygon EasyJet? (Other airlines are available.) Some of these queries are cleared up, Zygon hatchlings giving the 20 million number but it was still a confusing start.Anyway, I digress. I can see the Doctor just jamming away in the TARDIS with tedious adventures interrupting. However, this interruption is more serious with Zygons gone rogue on Earth. Then we come to the uncomfortable bit.

Words such as ‘radicalisation’, training camps and the monochrome Zygon logo all ring as references to ISIS, making it feel very political and potentially very distressing, perhaps not something Doctor Who should be replicating. Shapeshifting aliens are not a new concept but this episode for the first time accentuates the fear, paranoia and unpredictability of what that can fully entail. The UNIT soldier falling for a Zygon impersonating his mother was an idiot but who could possibly pull the trigger in his position? The rules have now been changed so Zygons can take the form of someone in a memory, conveniently to add more unpredictability. How do you fight an enemy when you don’t know who it is? That concept is the real success of this episode, intriguing and complicated but a riveting watch. The scenes are also brilliantly filmed, giving it a global reach akin to a James Bond film. The revelation of (SPOILER) Clara being a Zygon is quite dramatic and gives Jenna Coleman an opportunity to do something different with her acting. Confident about the cliffhanger resolution but still impatiently awaiting the second half of the story to see what direction it takes next!


6. The Woman Who Lived 5/10

The Woman Who Lived is a direct sequel to last weeks The Girl Who Died and deals with the Doctor’s action of giving Ashildr eternal life. It is sometimes argued that the Doctor swans in and turns around a situation but disappears again failing to see the fallout. The consequences of the Doctor’s actions were explored well with The Ark in 1966 and The Long Game/Bad Wolf in 2005 but was sorely lacking following the dramatic conclusion to The Waters of Mars in 2009. On this occasion it is perhaps something we could do without. The story centres on Ashildr’s struggles with her immortality and it is her scenes with the Doctor that fill the programme. Outside of that the plot is fairly thin, an amulet which opens a universal portal and Tharil lookalike Leandro being under-utilised. As is always the case with these plot lines the obvious exit is for the alien to hitch a lift in the TARDIS but of course it is a part of a dastardly plot for invasion or human destruction. Rufus Hound appears as Sam Swift, adding comedic relief to the tedium of the rest of the episode and there is a popular name check of fan favourite Capt Jack Harkness.

However, the episode is a masterpiece from the two lead actors Maisie Williams, who is far more experienced an actress than her youthful looks suggest, and Peter Capaldi. Both are at the top of their game, Williams having honed her acting skills on Game of Thrones and Capaldi flourishing deep into his second year in the role of the Doctor. So much is the need to let these two run riot with the script that third wheel Clara is removed from the action altogether. The Doctor and Ashildr dynamic might still have another story yet to tell which would be a treat as It is these two alone who engage the audience, not the action or special effects, and credit to them.


1. The Magician’s Apprentice 10/10

Doctor Who is back! This is cause to celebrate on its own. However, the first episode of the new series is possibly one of the best episodes ever made and deserves limitless praise. To call The Magician’s Apprentice a tick box exercise would be unfair. There are however a lot of elements, Davros, UNIT, Missy, Daleks, all vying for space within the script. Steven Moffat balances it all perfectly. Although I’m still not comfortable with Missy being the Master, Michelle Gomez is brilliant in everything she does! Without giving too much away the two episodes are a love song written for the 1975 story Genesis of the Daleks. A quote from that story, used in the episode, became the starting point. A young Davros. Could you kill that child? Given the cliffhanger it appears the Doctor has made his choice!

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REVIEW: WWE Sumerslam 2015

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WWE’s second biggest PPV offering, ‘the biggest party of the summer’ and now extended to a 4 hour show. The intention is clear, this is an event to match Wrestlemania. In the very near future I can see Summerslam being held in a stadium, which actually makes more sense, the summer weather and an outdoor venue. Anyway, onto the event, skipping the pre-show for the sake of time and the maintenance of sanity.

Sheamus def. Randy Orton

Two solid performers deliver a solid match. Both are in a difficult point of their careers, having achieved the big prize and not looking likely to challenge for it again any time soon.

New Day regain the Tag titles

First and foremost I cannot stand New Day. 3 guys with nothing in common, besides skin colour, are thrown together and credit to them they have made the most of it. Unfortunately, the tag team division has been dead in the water for a long time but perhaps the return of a classic favourite will reignite it once again so PPV matches are no longer time filler.

Dolph Ziggler Vs Rusez (Double count out)

Huge disappointment this one, purely because there is no resolution to the feud. A double count out is the classic way of prolonging a rivalry but this one didn’t need it. Lana is with Dolph, Russev has Summer Rae, let’s move on. But no. However, it’s not likely we will see a rematch at Night of Champions due to the self-imposed restraint of having to have every championship defended. Therefore it makes little sense to extend it further but sadly the double count out did just that and even worse it wouldn’t be the last occasion at this event where the outcome of a match is completely unsatisfying.

Some guy from a show I don’t watch in a match, yawn, I don’t care, skipped it.

Ryback retains the IC title

As pointed out by the commentary team this was classic triple threat material. I don’t really have much to add other than that. Pleased that Ryback retained the belt, it took him long enough to win his first championship so a decent run is just what he needs.

Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose def. Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper

Almost a throw back match to a time now passed. Makes sense as the upper echelons know not what to do with any of the four so why not go back and revisit their former glory. It is ammusing however to see how the fans boo Roman Reigns, resenting his elevation at the start of the year but now he is in limbo, not popular enough to finish his push, not unliked enough to remove him from TV. As with all those who have gone before the mid-card beckons for Reigns.

Seth Rollins retains the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and wins the US title

What had been a really good match was completely ruined by the moronic conclusion. First and foremost this was a stupid match to book. Cena winning the US title was a great call, elevating the belt once again but really he should’ve dropped it to Kevin Owens in one of their tremendous PPV contests. As a result losing it to Rollins effectively negates the US title all together. Also, the fact that Cena was competing to equal the legendary Ric Flair’s record of (supposed) 16 world titles is insane. Cena has been the face of WWE and their biggest merchandise peddler for over 10 years now and the fact he is on 15 titles is an indicator of how frequent the title changes have been during that time. 15 wins means he has also lost them 15 times. Perhaps it is the age we live in but title changes are often an easy book.

Back to the match itself there were plenty of near falls for one of them to be the proper finale. Instead guest host Jon Stewart, who I know of but have no interest in seeing, having an influence on the outcome of such an important match. The commentators also pointed out on multiple occasions how big a match it was and yet the finish was urinated upon by a rubbish chair shot to the gut by some guy from American television in order to generate press coverage.

Seth Rollins could really have done with a clean win over Cena but he still remains a fluke champion. Despite this he put in another good performance proving that he certainly deserves his position, delivering at the top-level.

Team PCB def. Team Bella and Team Bad, which is a ridiculous sentence.

The Diva revolution has been a tremendous boost for a much derided female division. All the best women’s matches have all been on NXT and it made perfect sense to bring top performers like Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks over to the main shows. The main problem with the division is the dominance of the Bella Twins, they are not the best technical wrestlers, to put it mildly, but to associate their success to be based on their respective high-profile partners is unfair but probably still accurate. However, on the two biggest shows the Bella’s have lost to a team featuring Paige. Surely therefore Paige is the future and matches with other NXT graduates will reignite the division so they are no longer Divas but women once again. The Bellas can then go back to the egofest that is Total Divas.

Kevin Owens def. Cesaro

Two individuals deserving of proper title runs put on a tremendous match. In hindsight Owens had to win the match given he had lost his two previous PPV outings plus at ‘Beast in the East’ and NXT Takeover the previous night.

The Undertaker def. Brock Lesnar

A huge rematch 16 months in the making and it more than lived up to the physicality expected but once again was spoilt by the finish which I don’t imagine was very clear to those in attendance at the arena. When the bell rang first thoughts sprang of Montreal revisited but instead the reality was much more confusing. So instead of getting a clean win and revenge it appears the Undertaker had lost once again, submitting to the kimura lock. However, the beast didn’t submit but passed out, retaining his aura. Basically there is going to be a third match, probably at Wrestlemania 32. It would make sense for Taker to bow out having overcome Lesnar at Wrestlemania but I could also see match 3 at Survivor Series.

RAW highlights

Sting is back! Hurray! Hopefully he will go up against Rollins now for the WWE World Heavyweight Title but will he hold the strap? Probably not but it would final cement him as a legend to WWE fans who didn’t see him at his peak in the 90’s.

Also the Dudley Boys are back and that should be exactly the boost the Tag Team division needs.

REVIEW: Doctor Who : The Feast of Steven (1965)

Feast of Steven 2I’ve decided to revisit some of the lost episodes from Doctor Who’s history which no longer exist in the archives by using the original audio recordings which have been remastered and released onto CD. It is also possible to find some very good reconstructions on the internet using images taken from the broadcast.

This is effectively the first Doctor Who Christmas Special, broadcast on Christmas Day 1965. It is a total departure from the epic ‘Dalek Master Plan’ story, in fact the Daleks are barely mentioned at all. In fact it is like no other episode of Doctor Who ever produced, a peculiar comedy during which William Hartnell wishes the viewers a happy Christmas.

The TARDIS lands and the Doctor is concerned by the pollution outside, telling Steven and Sara to remain inside. As it turns out they have landed outside a police station in the North of England, on Christmas Day. Following the Doctor being arrested Steven poses as another policeman, which is to facilitate a visual joke later. In the mean time Sara manages to fix the TARDIS scanner and the three escape and dematerialise in another location. The travellers immediately jump to the aid of a woman being tied to a circular saw only to discover that they have stumbled onto a film set and have ruined that take, much to the dismay of the actress. It is not the only film being made however as the TARDIS trio have landed at a Hollywood studio in the 1920’s. Sara encounters a Lawrence of Arabia style movie and Steven is confused for a cast member of a Keystone Cops picture, explaining the borrowed police uniform which triggers a comedic runaround chase. Two of my particular favourite quotes to sum up the ludicrous nature of the episode come from Sara who complains that, “a strange man kept telling me to take my clothes off” and the Doctor who describes the location as “a madhouse, it’s all full of Arabs”. Not sure modern Doctor Who could get away with that, although ‘Love and Monsters’ did manage to get an oral sex reference accepted. During the visit to the Hollywood film studio Steven and the Doctor bump into Charlie Chaplin and the Timelord also meets Bing Crosby.

Feast of StevenAfter the travellers return to the TARDIS and leave they take a pause to celebrate, despite being in the midst of an epic battle with the Daleks, toasting a happy Christmas with some champagne. The Doctor turns to the camera and wishes “a happy Christmas to all of you at home”, breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly, the only time in the programme’s history that this has been done.

As mentioned previously this is effectively a stand alone episode within the Daleks’ Master Plan story, and perhaps does provide some comic relief in what is admittedly a dark story where the whole solar system is in jeopardy, but fortunately we will return to that with the next episode, ‘Volcano’.

REVIEW: The Daleks’ Master Plan : Episodes 1 -6 (1965)

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I’ve decided to revisit some of the lost episodes from Doctor Who’s history which no longer exist in the archives by using the original audio recordings which have been remastered and released onto CD. It is also possible to find some very good reconstructions on the internet using images taken from the broadcast. Fortunately on this occasion we still have episodes 2 and 5 to enjoy plus some addition clips, such as (spoiler warning) Katarina’s death which was shown on Blue Peter, a programme which was archived properly.

Given the epic length of The Dalek’s Master Plan I have decided to review it in stages starting with the first half of the story. Following on from the conclusion of ‘The Myth Makers’ the TARDIS lands on the planet location seen in ‘Mission to the Unknown’, Kembel. Also on Kembel are two Space Security Agents Bret Vyon and Kurt Gantry, the latter being killed by a Dalek in a scene which does still exist on film. Bret Vyon appeals to fans immediately because he is played by Nicholas Courtney who would later return to the series as Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart and fortunately he manages to help Steven recover from the wounds inflicted in Troy. We are introduced to the character of Mavic Chen, Guardian of the Solar System and (spoiler) the shocking twist is that he is actually in league with the Daleks and provides the crucial Taranium core needed for their great weapon, the Time Destructor. From that moment on the plot becomes all about the Taranium core, so much so episodes 3-6 might as well be retitled ‘The Quest for Taranium’. During that chase across space Katarina sacrifices herself for the Doctor, Steven and Bret. It happens suddenly and the remaining three actors are suitably solemn and stunned, resonating to the audience. Sadly Katarina only appears in a total of 5 episodes, her character struggling with what a key is for example, so it is no wonder that she was written out so quickly. However the second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, would get a companion from the past in Jamie McCrimmon, his inquisitive questioning caused by his inexperience enlightening the viewer and proving a historical companion could be succesful. The Taranium core still remains a plot point however moving forward into the second half of the story so perhaps Katarina’s sacrifice has merely postponed the inevitable, the Daleks recapturing it once again.

dalekmasterplanA particular highlight is the scene of the Daleks burning down the forest of Kembel, there is something very beautiful about a Dalek with a flame thrower, even in black and white, and it surprises me that it has not been replicated more frequently.

Later we are introduced to Sara (sometimes pronounced Sara but also Sarah) Kingdom, who reveals herself to be Bret Vyon’s sister, after killing him, which seems strangely tacked on but does allow Jean Marsh to demonstrate her acting skills, conveying genuine remorse. Sara takes a bit of convincing that Mavic Chen should not be trusted and with good reason, Kevin Stoney is incredibly charismatic in the role. Although the character is a stereotypical power-hungry villain, Stoney manoeuvres seamlessly from incandessant rage to seductive charm, elevating him above that of a cliched scoundrel to that of one of the most memorable guest star appearances in Doctor Who’s history.

Next up is episode 7 ‘The Feast of Steven’ which I shall review separately for reasons which will become soon obvious.

Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor : A Defence

colin-bakerFollowing on from Doctor Who Magazine’s interview with Colin Baker I have my own musings on his Doctor and in fact feel that he is without doubt the most hard done by actor to ever play the role. Colin makes valid points concerning his reluctance to talk to DWM. Most Doctor Who fans often feel a need to quantify everything concerning the show, I too am guilty of this, regularly typified by DWM who carry out votes asking readers to rate Doctors, stories and merchandise for example. The problem with this is that everyone has different opinions. In the same issue of DWM as Colin’s interview is the result of their 2014 series survey. The best episode as voted by the readers of DWM from Peter Capaldi’s first year in the role was ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’. Now although I enjoyed the story I personally didn’t think much of it, the resolution was particularly poor, in my opinion, considering it to be a case of style over substance. However, credit where it is due the Foretold/Mummy was superbly realised and skilfully portrayed. I personally thought ‘Listen’ was by far and away the highlight of the series but that is only my opinion and apparently does not correlate with the opinions of the majority. The problem therefore with having votes of this nature means that for all the celebrated ‘favourites’ you have those at the bottom end of the scale. It is therefore no wonder that Colin Baker was left deflated when his Doctor was rated towards the bottom as is his debut story ‘The Twin Dilemma’.

the-twin-dilemma1There is no hiding from the fact that ‘The Twin Dilemma’ is poor, which is expected given the problems the production team had experienced with the script. For example, the twins are terrible. In their opening scene they speak very derogatory of their mother, immediately making them unlikeable and made worse when we discover they are mathematical geniuses. Boy geniuses in science fiction never appeal to the audience, modern US comedies yes, but not in science fiction. The costume design is also appalling, for example Kevin McNally’s character has a particularly garish multi-coloured top at one point and even Nicola Bryant’s costume looks like it has been thrown together. Mestor the gastropod is not brilliant either and the Jacondan’s do look like they have simply had feathers stuck to their heads.

the-twin-dilemma2‘The Twin Dilemma’ is one of the rare occasions where a new Doctor’s debut story is not the opener to a new season. In fact the only time this ever occurred before or since was with Patrick Troughton’s debut story, ‘The Power of the Daleks’. That decision was made to start the Sixth Doctor’s tenure with the final story of season 21, producer John Nathan-Turner feeling that “nine months was too long to wait to see the new guy”. This is the first decision which conspired against Colin Baker and sadly not the last. It was also decided that the regeneration process was to have a damaging effect and leave him disturbed. Following on from the previous incarnation this approach makes a lot of sense. However, this strategy doesn’t have the opportunity to be followed through properly. As a result you have a character that is a stark contrast to anything seen previously and as a result is deliberately unlikeable. The problem with that is the lengthy gap from March 1984 to January 1985 works against you. After that 9 month break the recollections of the viewer were of a character that is unpredictable and egotistical making it a difficult sell to get those people to engage with the programme again. Sadly the Sixth Doctor is often associated with strangling his companion and that remains a tough memory to break. But credit to the production team the lure of the Cybermen brought the viewers back and the remainder of Season 22 resulted in reasonably consistent viewing figures between 8 and 6.5million.

21st Century Doctor Who is often associated with story arcs that meander through the series or even multiple ones and this was precisely what the production team were attempting to achieve with Colin Baker’s Doctor. Starting with a Doctor disturbed by his regeneration, being more of an alien personality than had been previously seen but over time he would mellow, following a personal journey which would’ve seen him become the hero we all know he could’ve been. Over that period his companion Peri would’ve stood by him and supported the change, in a similar way to how Rose Tyler helps the Ninth Doctor overcome the trauma of the Time War. This could also have been reflected in his attire. The Sixth Doctor’s costume is one of the most ridiculed parts of the show’s history, a garish mishmash of colours reflecting his exuberant and jarring personality. As that temperament changed so too may his costume have developed, perhaps to the blue variant or black as Colin Baker had suggested? Ultimately, that interesting story arc was to be interrupted because of the disdain that the upper echelons of the BBC had for the programme.

sixth-doctor8 sixth-doctor

Michael Grade, Controller of BBC 1, and Jonathan Powell, Head of Series and Serials, cancelled the programme in 1985 but following the outcry the show would return, at a reduced length, with what became ‘The Trial of the Timelord’ season. As a result of this hiatus the personal journey of the Sixth Doctor never came to fruition. Also Nicola Bryant’s contract was expiring and her character had to be written out, which was certainly dramatic but then ruined by a rewritten revelation at the end of the season. Bonnie Langford was installed as the replacement companion but did not get any formal introduction. Her character was a health and fitness fanatic, making the Doctor exercise in a peculiar TARDIS scene, but in other accounts she is supposedly a computer programmer from Pease Pottage, not that that skill was put to any use during the broadcast stories. Also the continuity is nonsensical. We see her already established as the companion during the future events concerning the Vervoids but after the trial she leaves with the Doctor in the Tardis, despite them not having met at that point in his timeline. It is not surprising that such an error occurred given that the relationship between John Nathan Turner and script editor Eric Saward disintegrated with the script for the finale being withdrawn and unusable. Having got through the Trial of the Timelord season the show would be rocked once again by a decision made by senior BBC staff.

In 1986 John Nathan Turner was instructed by his superiors to fire Colin Baker from his role as the Doctor. Michael Grade was correct in identifying the Sixth Doctor as an unlikeable character but the enforced hiatus had prevented his development so the brash and disagreeable personality shaped people’s opinions and those sentiments could not be changed. If Colin Baker had been given a proper crack at the whip, coupled with some better scripts which fully maximised the potential of the character development story arc, his Doctor would I’m sure be more highly regarded. Sadly, he was treated poorly and did not get the dramatic finale he deserved, which could’ve seen his Doctor complete his evolution and cement his position in the hearts of fans across the world.

REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Myth Makers (1965)

the-myth-makers-trojan-horseI’ve decided to revisit some of the lost episodes from Doctor Who’s history which no longer exist in the archives by using the original audio recordings which have been remastered and released onto CD. It is also possible to find some very good reconstructions on the internet using animation and images taken from the production.

The Myth Makers is possibly an underrated Doctor Who story. Although the historical stories of the 1960’s were a part of the ‘educational’ purpose of the show they ultimately were phased out the following season after the completion of ‘The Highlanders’ as they were difficult to achieve on the shows budget and were not as popular with viewers as other space adventures. Using only the original audio recordings and some reconstructions posted online, I think this is actually a really good story. Although it is possibly a bit overstretched to 4 parts, it is along the same lines as the 1982 story ‘The Visitation’. On that occasion the Doctor was responsible for the Great Fire of London, on this occasion he gives the Greeks the idea for the Trojan horse, shaping history as we know it. I really like adventures like this where the Doctor is shown to be the one responsible for the famous historical events, that’s the fun with an adventure series with a time traveller. Although not maximised to its full potential we also get the Doctor debating wether or not to give the Greeks the idea of the Trojan horse, it may have been a fanciful story created by Homer. This is far more different to the “You cannot change history, not one line” stance of ‘The Aztecs’ (1964). Instead, the Doctor is actually shaping history, no wonder the Time Lords put him on trial for not adhering to the rule of non-interference.

There is also a reasonable amount of action in the story, the TARDIS appears during a fight between Achilles and Hector for a start, and who doesn’t enjoy a good sword fight? I think that if we had the visuals of these combat scenes and if the Trojan horse was successfully achieved on-screen then this story would be more highly regarded.

What I also didn’t realise is that Francis de Wolff who plays Agamemnon had also been Agrippa in Carry On Cleo, which also featured a turn from future Doctor Jon Pertwee. Small world and all that.

The story is also momentous because it sees the departure of companion Vicki. This is a strange one, although not so high on the ludicrous scale as Leela’s departure in ‘The Invasion of Time’ (1978), Vicki does have plenty of scenes with Troilus who she subsequently leaves the TARDIS to find. It just seems strange given the carnage occurring inside the walls of Troy at the time but she safely manages to navigate that and also irritating because everyone calls her Cressida instead of Vicki. She is then replaced by Katarina, a handmaiden to the frankly over the top Cassandra, but she doesn’t really feature in any significant way apart from helping to carry a wounded Steven into the TARDIS. However, her confident prophecy that she is to die is straight out of the Russell T Davies era of the show. More pressing of course is that Steven is clearly in a bad way and in need of treatment, what will happen next….?

Next week “The Nightmare Begins”! (How great does that sound!? Very is the answer.)

REVIEW: Doctor Who: Mission to the Unknown (1965)

Mission_to_the_Unknown

I’ve decided to revisit some of the lost episodes from Doctor Who’s history which no longer exist in the archives by using the original audio recordings which have been remastered and released onto CD. It is also possible to find some very good reconstructions on the internet using animation and images taken from the production.

Mission to the Unknown holds a unique place in Doctor Who history. It is the only Doctor Who episode broadcast which doesn’t feature the Doctor, his companion or even the TARDIS. However, William Hartnell was still credited despite not appearing. Also referred to as ‘Dalek Cutaway’ the episode serves as a prelude to the epic ‘Dalek’s Masterplan’ which was to follow after the next story, ‘The Myth Makers’. As a result it is quite an exciting episode, the Daleks are dominant obviously but the Varga plants are also very effective and actually create most of the peril and dramatic moments. It would be interesting to see the original visuals and see how well the Varga plant transformations were achieved. Also of note is the menagerie of aliens from the seven galaxies who are also particularly unique and visually strong.

Apart from Marc Cory conveniently hearing a Dalek loudspeaker announcement to confirm his suspicions, the whole episode perfectly unveils that the Daleks have formed an alliance with a band of other aliens in order to threaten the galaxy. For added drama their first target is Earth!

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to watch this on transmission without the internet or Doctor Who magazine to explain what was going on. So after an exciting episode with an impending threat coming from the Daleks, who are stronger than we have ever seen them, the narrative lingers with the viewer for a further four weeks because first the TARDIS crew lands outside the city of Troy.

Next week….The Myth Makers