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

The Daleks' Master Plan 2

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

The end of Top Gear

Top GearSo the familiar version of Top Gear is over. The combination of Clarkson, Hammond and May will no longer appear on BBC2 at 8pm on a Sunday evening and talk about cars, cause chaos and general hilarity with their antics. Over the years they have taken what started as a dull car review show and turned it into an award-winning programme full of entertainment centred on a love for cars. Often the show caused controversy from offending people such as lorry drivers and Mexicans, to accusations of drink driving whilst heading to the North Pole. In that respect it was only a matter of time before controversy would finally cause the programme to implode. This almost occurred when crew members were put in serious jeopardy by an ill-advised special in Patagonia but the final blow was dealt by Clarkson himself. The incident has been widely documented in the press and resulted in the conclusion to the show as seen on Sunday 28th June. That final episode, with links recorded by Hammond and May in an empty studio, save for an obvious ‘elephant in the room’, was sombre. The credits rolled with no theme tune but silently, akin to occasions in soap operas where a character has died during the episode. However, it is perfectly apt as sadly the show is now dead. BBC Worldwide will continue to flog the Top Gear brand for all the money that can be squeezed out of it and the show will return with Chris Evans as a presenter. But whatever form that relaunched Top Gear does take I can only predict total and utter failure. The camaraderie between Clarkson, Hammond and May was irreplaceable and brought audiences to the show that crucially were not petrol heads but enjoyed watching them and what they got up to each week. Sadly, replicating that chemistry is surely an impossible task and therefore it is rightly seen that this is indeed the end for Top Gear.

However, as we mark the end of one of the BBC’s most popular programmes it is only right that we look back at some of the highlights that the show brought viewers.

The Races

Top Gear almost became synonymous with extraordinary races, often pitting the car against public transport, racing to the North Pole, across London and through Tokyo to name only a few. The two races in particular which will stand out in my memory featured extraordinary pieces of machinery, the Bugatti Veyron and steam locomotive Tornado.

Top Gear 2A simple race from Italy to London featured perhaps the greatest piece of motorcar engineering we are ever likely to see, the Bugatti Veyron. This car was quite rightly the winner of this race, during which Jeremy dazzled the viewer with the incredible statistics associated with it, for instance, 1001 bhp, 4 turbochargers, 10 radiators and a top speed of 253 mph. Rightly so it was described on the show as motoring’s “Concorde moment”, the best road car there is ever likely to be in our lifetime. In retrospect, James and Richard never really stood a chance up against a machine of that ilk. But it made for memorable television and is re-watched with great fondness on repeat channel ‘Dave’.

top-gear-episode-1The second race which sticks in my mind is the race from London to Edinburgh, James drove a Jaguar XK120, Richard on a Vincent Black Shadow motorcycle and Jeremy on steam engine Tornado. All 3 vehicles were fantastic and looked great. I may be wrong but I have a feeling it was the first episode of Top Gear to be made in HD and shots of Tornado going up the east coast were gorgeous and it is those images that will stick in the mind for a long time.

The Guests

Something that Jeremy often highlighted during the show was that on this “pokey motoring show” they would regularly get incredibly high profile stars in the reasonably priced car. From Hollywood A-listers Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, to Formula 1 drivers such as Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, every week the show would have a recognisable face appear. That alone is a perfect indication about the popularity of the programme. All of the guests provided great interviews; the informal nature of the questioning as opposed to a typical televised interview meant that the guest was relaxed and more forthcoming. Also, over the years it became a popular thought for viewers to wonder how fast they could go around the track. Fortunately, through the video game Gran Turismo 5 viewers could test themselves against famous corners such as Gambon and the hammerhead.

Top Gear 3Cheap car challenges

One of the best challenges, of the many, that the show came up with involved a budget to go and buy a specific car. One of my favourites was the challenge to buy a mid-engine Italian supercar for less than £10,000, most notably for James arriving at the meeting point on the back of an AA truck and all the cars failing to reach their final destination. Another was finding the perfect car for 17 year olds for £2,500; I don’t think I have laughed as much as I did watching that challenge.

Top Gear 4Amphibious cars

Another challenge involved creating amphibious vehicles and so successful was it the challenge was revisited but taken to a new level. In the first challenge Jeremy sank hilariously, so very close to the finish, James struggled with his Triumph Herald sailing boat on the land before even getting to water and Richard’s ‘damper-van’ fared little better. So it was even more surprising when the challenge was elevated to push the trio to attempt an English Channel crossing. Amazingly, Jeremy’s Nissan pick-up truck made it to French soil, one of few occasions where one of the vehicles managed to complete the challenge.

Racing on the Monaco F1 track

As a part of a film about hot hatchbacks the three presenters got the chance to drive the legendary Circuit de Monaco. As well as the obvious visually impressive track, it was fascinating to see the corners you might have gone round on computer games done for real by drivers who are not professionally trained and in regular cars. Most viewers who have seen Formula 1 races will be have been very envious of that opportunity.

Chernobyl

This was an extraordinary film. Driving through Ukraine Clarkson, Hammond and May tried their utmost to run out of fuel so they didn’t have to enter the exclusion zone. Unfortunately, Jeremy and James still had petrol so the cars ventured into the radioactive nightmare. Chernobyl is one of the eeriest locations on Earth and for cameras to capture it was extremely rare. Abandoned housing and the creepy playground alone make it for one of the most spectacular sights but for all the wrong reasons. The unnerving ticks of the Geiger counters heightened the reality of what is perhaps one of the most dangerous journeys ever made by the Top Gear.

Richard HammondRichard’s accident and triumphant return

In September 2006, Richard Hammond was involved in an accident after a jet-powered car he was driving at over 280mph suffered a tire blow out, causing the car to spin off, flip upside down and jammed his head into the ground. As a result Richard suffered a significant brain injury but eventually made a full recovery. The episode where the footage of the accident was shown became the first of the new series that had been delayed to allow Richard to recover. During the episode Richard discussed what had happened and his recollections of the accident. The footage itself was shocking enough and really highlighted how serious the accident was. Fortunately, Richard did make a full recovery and quite rightly he had a spectacular reception but then once it was talked about his request to not mention it again was respected.

The incident really underlined the relationship between the three presenters and it is that chemistry which made the show a success. Almost certainly the trio will be back again on our screens for another broadcaster but it will not be on Top Gear and despite a dramatic end viewers will fondly look back on what the show did provide in terms of entertainment.

REVIEW: Game of Thrones: Season 5

Game-of-Thrones-logo-S5-Tyrion1-810x400Now I have to admit as much as I adore this show I have really struggled to get into this season. Over the 10 episodes the plotlines have meandered through with some notable conclusions. The previous 9 episodes led up to a season finale which certainly had its fair share of dramatic resolutions. Ultimately the majority of the season is pedestrian in the way it limped along, only to be accentuated with controversial and excessive scenes before the dramatic conclusions that rounded it all off.

Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch

This story arc provided the closing scene for the finale and for many came as quite a shock. I had thought that if he was to be murdered by his own men it would’ve happened before this point so I was not expecting it. When Jon Snow was elected Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch he became a marked man and he further antagonised his comrades with his determination to bring the Wildlings south of the Wall. Perhaps his biggest mistake was appointing Ser Alliser Thorne as First Ranger, never hiding his contempt for Snow and expressing his disagreement with his decisions. Ultimately all of these actions would see his undoing and trigger the shocking scenes that concluded the season.

Whilst many will be mourning over the departure of one of the shows main pieces of eye candy the reverberations on the story from here will be potentially even more catastrophic. Having faced the White Walkers Jon Snow appreciated the scale of the task that was facing the whole of Westeros. The White Walkers provide a very real threat to life south of the wall but without Jon Snow it seems that the odds of success for the Night’s Watch have taken a serious blow.

It was an interesting decision for the whole season to conclude with the death of Jon Snow but smart in terms of generating a reaction of viewers on social media and the additional press interest and comment. The final shot, looking down on a deceased Snow, with blood trickling, he must’ve been on an incline of some sort, will stick in the mind of the viewer and hopefully encourage them to watch the next season. However, by consistently killing off likeable characters such as Jon Snow, removing Samwell Tarly from the equation too, it makes it more difficult for viewers to reengage with the show the following year. One of the strengths of the show is the unpredictability but viewers ultimately want to see the good people thrive and the others getting their comeuppance. One individual who does indeed get his just deserts is Stannis Baratheon.

Stannis Baratheon messes everything up

It is hard to argue that anyone had a more catastrophic conclusion to the season than Stannis. His army arrived dramatically at the Wall in the conclusion of season 4 but it took the whole of season 5 for him to move onto Winterfell. This highlights the slow and plodding nature of the first 2/3rds of the season. What those episodes do achieve is by bringing Stannis and his daughter closer together, only for that to be completely thrown out of the window when the manipulative witch Melisandre exerts her influence. The scene of Shireen being burnt at the stake is disturbing but fortunately we are spared any shots of the young princess ablaze. Although this decision sees the snow melting for his army’s assault on Winterfell it also results in half of that army deserting and his wife Selyse taking her own life. There are many occasions in this show where individuals seem to act in a way which is not really consistent with how real people would act but Selyse is clearly so affected by the death of her daughter that she feels compelled to take her own life. Melisandre also shows her real cowardice, fleeing Stannis’ side and retreating to Castle Black. Stannis in his determination still attempts to attack Winterfell but that also proves unsuccessful. It appears that Stannis has met his end, slain by Brienne, but as we did not see the death it remains open to debate if he will return or not.

It would appear that Stannis has got what he deserved, putting his faith in the words of Melisandre and his decision to sacrifice his daughter. However, this will have an effect on the rest of Westeros. With the Baratheon army defeated it seems the Lannister hold on the Iron throne seems to have tightened. However, of more concern is perhaps the fact that the Bolton’s still hold Winterfell.

Sansa and Ramsay Bolton

One of the most disturbing scenes of the whole season follows the marriage of Sansa Stark to Ramsay Bolton. It caused plenty of reaction on social media and rightly so but was consistent with the grotesque character that Ramsay Bolton has become since his introduction into the series. However, this season sees no retribution for Ramsay. Fortunately, the season finale does see Sansa finally reach Theon Greyjoy as he kills Myranda and the two of them leap off the wall. But their fate remains unclear and this will be a plotline to continue further in the next season. Unfortunately, with the Bolton’s still holding Winterfell it is going to be difficult for Theon and Sansa to evade the repercussions.

Cersei’s plan works against her

Ah Cersei Lannister! She is perhaps one of the most realistic characters in the series, intrinsically protective of her family and her children in particular. Sometimes that maternal instinct gets the better of her and it certainly did in this season. Her initial plans to counter the growing influence of the Tyrell’s by re-establishing the Faith Militant works perfectly as both Loras and Margaery are arrested. However, it would backfire spectacularly as she too was arrested. In the season finale we are forced to endure a long and uncomfortable scene of Cersei doing a walk of shame through the streets of King’s Landing. Whilst many would feel that this is all of her birds coming home to roost finally it still makes for difficult viewing. As a character she rings true to reality, she is flawed. Her obsessive controlling instincts in order to protect her children balanced against her poor decision making in other aspects of her life make her a fully rounded character. Going forward into Season 6 Cersei is now back in the Red Keep and it is difficult to see anything else than spectacular and bloody retribution. King Tommen has been largely absent, appearing in only half of the episodes during Season 5, and as a result it is hard to consider him as anything other than a weak King, which probably means a most undignified end to his reign.

The boredom of Dorne and Meereen

One of the biggest problems with the pacing of Season 5 is that whenever there was an element of momentum it was immediately lost by moving to Dorne or Meereen. The Martell and Sand Snake’s plotline is frankly tedious and ultimately accomplishes absolutely nothing. The death of Myrcella is predictable given the ill-feeling of Ellaria Sand for the Lannisters following the death of Oberyn in Season 4. But for it to take 10 episodes is a journey akin to having your fingernails pulled out.

Similarly the political unrest in Meereen is completely uninteresting. Daenerys seems to have lost sight of her goal of being on the iron throne, which is what we as viewers want to see. As the ‘Mother of Dragons’ we want to see those dragons go to war against the Lannisters et al. Instead we have to endure the political instability of Slavers Bay with the Sons of the Harpy rebelling, the fighting pits and it simply doesn’t interest this member of the audience. What is interesting is the potential of a Daenerys and a Tyrion Lannister alliance which had been alluded to throughout the season only for them to be separated towards its conclusion. Instead, Tyrion is now in charge of the poisoned chalice of dullness that is Meereen but on the plus side we did see the return of Varys. The dynamic between these two characters is golden and hopefully we can look forward to more of that in the next season.

Arya’s learns to be no one

From boredom to utter confusion, Arya’s time in Bravos. Maisie Williams is fantastic in the role as Arya, a character who has been on a journey since seeing her father executed and you almost feel that it has been building to this point, her teaching in the House of Black and White. Of course this was punctuated by her killing of Meryn Trant. Now he was clearly portrayed as an individual deserving of a grisly demise but was it really necessary to show his preference for young girls by having him drag off a frightened youngster in ‘The Dance of Dragons’. This may have been an attempt to provide a reason why Arya would be in a position to kill Trant, or to have the audience cheer her on while she kills him, it still seemed unnecessary to show scared girls getting beaten by him. But he was actually a character who got his just deserts in the series; even if the death was a little brutal it was very well done on a production level. Arya would feel the repercussions of that action however as her story concludes with her losing her sight. Where her story goes from here now is open for debate. Perhaps it will make Arya more powerful, being able to see what others do not see. Overall the whole plotline for this season confused me greatly, removing multiple faces from Jaqen’s supposedly dead body until finally Arya herself is revealed. It is this unpredictability that makes this programme one of the best on television and keeps people watching, even if they don’t fully understand what’s going on.

Hardhome and the White Walkers

The undoubted highlight of the whole season was the White Walker attack on Hardhome. The whole sequence was realised brilliantly, truly epic and up to the high standards of ‘The Watchers on the Wall’ the previous year. Although an entire episode had been set aside for that battle, it seemed that somehow the attack of the White Walkers topped it in terms of scale. This brings us on to the threat of the White Walkers. When the ‘Night’s King’ raises his arms and all the fallen rose up as more undead soldiers, it was a real spine-tingling moment.

As a result the only conclusion I can reach is that ultimately all these plot threads will prove irrelevant because when the White Walkers do move the whole of Westeros is doomed. There’s an image going around social media of George RR Martin writing in a book with the text “and then they all died”. I can honestly see that happening at this point.

John Nathan-Turner era discussion – Part 1

Having read the revealing biography of JNT I have decided to revisit this era of Doctor Who, with the discussion focusing on some of the memorable and often widely debated moments.

Part 1 – The Changes Begin

John Nathan-Turner had worked on a few Doctor Who serials, starting with the Space Pirates in 1969 as a floor assistant and subsequently later stories such as The Ambassadors of Death and Colony in Space. During the production of ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang’ he began as Production Unit Manager and held the position through Seasons 15, 16 and 17. In 1979 he then became the Producer of the show, taking over from Graham Williams and was tasked with taking Doctor Who in the 1980’s.

Season 17 had been problematic for the production team. The Erato effect in ‘Creature from the Pit’ failed to cause anything but uncontrollable laughter amongst the crew, ‘Nightmare of Eden’ had indeed been a nightmare with the director leaving during through the production, and the final story of the season ‘Shada’ was completely abandoned due to industrial action. The tone of the product on screen had also become noticeably lighter than the horror-influenced period of Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes, largely attributable to Script Editor Douglas Adams. Behind the camera the star of the show Tom Baker had also become more opinionated and difficult to manage but also the budget for the show was struggling to cope with the demands required of the production. This was the environment which faced John Nathan-Turner, a daunting task for an individual who had not been a producer before. As a result Barry Letts was appointed Executive Producer to oversee JNT as he began to take the show in a new direction.

Leisure_HiveThe Leisure Hive (1980)

The first story to enter production was David Fisher’s script ‘The Leisure Hive’. JNT would use this story to begin to ring the changes, updating the look and sound of the show, removing some of the comedy elements and scaling back the appearances of K9 and the sonic screwdriver. With the suggestion of Barry Letts and incoming script editor Christopher H Bidmead, there was a return to stories being influenced by real, or at least what could pass for real, science. In this story tachyonics is the predominant science mentioned, which was based upon tachyons that are theoretical particles which move faster than light. This method grounded the show back into a world of realism and plausibility and away from the fantastical tales of the previous regime.

1980The first and most notable change was the new title sequence, incorporating a journey through space, a new image of Tom Baker and redesigned logo; it was also accompanied by a new arrangement of the theme tune by Peter Howell. The new titles would later become more associated with the Fifth Doctor but the travelling through the star field proved highly successful and continued throughout the 1980’s. It still retained the travelling motion which had been established by the previous ‘time tunnel’ sequence and it is still used today in the modern show. A reimagining of the logo to a very on-trend neon tube design has dated a little but at the time was fresh and further established a new era of the show. The new look immediately catches the eye but unfortunately that initial excitement is let down by an interminable panning shot of the Brighton seafront until the Tardis is finally revealed.

June Hudson designTom Baker’s costume also got a facelift, superbly created by expert costume designer June Hudson; it had a fresh colour and new materials but still retained the iconic scarf associated with his Doctor. Under the direction of JNT question marks were added to the collar of Baker’s shirt but wisely Hudson made them subtle, unlike the plague of question marks across Sylvester McCoy’s jumper. The costume fitted the fourth Doctor at this later stage of his regeneration. It was more stylish; colour coordinated and had a maturity which elevated it above the previous casual ‘student-esque’ look which had been highly successful. Now however the Doctor had become older, which was reflected in the new title sequence image, and amusingly acknowledged with him asleep in a deck chair on Brighton sea front. The Doctor’s character becomes more melancholic and less dominant in the story, with the comedic elements almost entirely removed. Entering his seventh and final year in the role Tom Baker delivers a memorable performance, particularly after being aged but still retaining his presence and appeal. Tom Baker was and always will be associated with his role as the Doctor, he had become iconic in the role and to some children had indeed been the only Doctor in their experience. So although the Fourth Doctor had matured he was still that alien mysterious personality, just underneath a new costume.

foamasiThe new look for the show included more than just the lead actor’s appearance. The Leisure Hive on Argolis delivers a bright and colourful environment with the Argolins in particular looking fantastically bold, which contrasts greatly to the dreary appearance of Earth. I personally like the addition of the nodules on the horn which indicates the Argolin’s age and how close they are to death. The Foamasi are also noticeably different in terms of the way they are featured very sparingly on screen, shadowy shapes, peculiar eyes peering round corners, all suggest a notable alien creature. Unfortunately, the final look is ultimately unimpressive, portly and covered in a peculiar fabric intended to appear as scales but essentially failing. One of the more successful effects utilised for the first time in the story was Quantel, a digital image processing system which allowed the creation of the cliffhanger for episode 1 which appear to show the Doctor being torn apart. These are simple effects which can be created easily nowadays but at the time added to the fresh appearance of the programme, pushing the technical boundaries further than had been previously achieved. Even the Tardis exterior prop received a redesign, notable for the stacked roof consistent with the original prop from the 1960’s.

Further changes noticeable in this story include the move to include new electronic music. JNT took composer Dudley Simpson, who had contributed to an extraordinary number of stories over the years, out for lunch to inform him that his services were no longer required. From that point on all incidental music fell into the remit of the historic BBC Radiophonic Workshop. As a result the show looked but now also sounded more contemporary.

The Leisure HiveUnfortunately, the production of the programme went over budget and it is thought that this is the reason for director Lovett Bickford never being appointed on any further productions. Despite this ‘The Leisure Hive’ achieves exactly what ‘The Eleventh Hour’ managed to in 2010. It was still Doctor Who but it felt new and fresh and different.


Tom Baker delivered another commanding performance in the next story, playing both the Doctor and his evil doppelganger, Meglos. The story was also notable for the appearance of Jacqueline Hill, who had played original companion Barbara Wright, an early example of Turner’s penchant for ‘stunt casting’ to gain attention for the series from the press. It also saw the use of more new video technology, ‘scene sync’ which allowed for CSO (green screen) effects to support camera movement instead of static shots. The use of CSO may also have been a solution to avoid building sets and ensure this story came in under budget, unlike ‘The Leisure Hive’.

The next three stories formed a trilogy set in E-Space, which existed outside our own universe and over the course of the trilogy would see the arrival of new companion Adric and the departures of both Romana and K9 from the series. These substantial changes paved the way for the biggest transformation in the show, not seen since the mid 1970’s, a new Doctor…

The (Alternative) Day of the Doctor

Now this may be deemed sacrilegious by all those who voted the 50th Anniversary special the single greatest episode in Doctor Who’s history in DWM’s poll but I thought I’d give it a go anyway. One of the main disappointments I found during the episode is the fact that David Tennant and Billie Piper do not interact. Another issue is that Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603 but the National Gallery was not built until over 200 years later. I also was not a huge fan of Joanna Page’s performance. So to solve this I removed her character, changed the date and brought the Tenth Doctor and Rose back together. The Moment would then be a brief voiceover which only the War Doctor can hear. There is also a nice moment of Rose speaking with the War Doctor about his next incarnation and the changes that she saw after first meeting him.

Anyway, I hope you like it!


IMG_5707A policeman walks past Coal Hill School and passes a sign for “I.M. Foreman, Scrap Merchant”. Inside the school, Clara Oswald is teaching, ending on a quote by Marcus Aurelius: “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” The school bell rings and as the students leave, a teacher runs into the classroom informing Clara that she has had a call from her “doctor”. She grabs her helmet and hops on her motorbike. She approaches a police box stood at the side of a rural road. As she approaches the TARDIS the doors open and she drives straight inside, closing them with a click of the fingers. The Doctor, reading a book of ‘Advanced Quantum Mechanics’, greets Clara with a big hug. Suddenly, the TARDIS takes off without starting the engines. Startled, the Doctor looks out to see a helicopter carrying the TARDIS away. He calls UNIT’s head of Scientific Research, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, from the phone on the TARDIS exterior doors.

UNIT scientist Osgood rushes to Kate with her phone. Kate instructs Osgood to tell Malcolm that the ravens need new batteries and for Osgood to use her inhaler at the sound of her heavy breathing before accepting the call.

The Doctor is told that he has been summoned. Kate is surprised to learn that he is on-board the TARDIS, which they thought was empty and were simply moving it for his convenience. Instead the TARDIS is brought directly to the “scene of the crime”. Upon arrival, the Doctor and Clara are taken into the National Gallery to investigate.

The Doctor explains his relationship with UNIT to Clara, who is sceptical of the Doctor ever having had a real job. They stop in front of something impossible, a 3-dimensional oil painting. The painting depicts the fall of the Gallifreyan city of Arcadia during the Time War. Kate tells the Doctor that there is some controversy over the work’s name. It is either named ‘No More’ or ‘Gallifrey Falls’. The painting is a form of Time Lord art. The Doctor is visibly disturbed by the painting. As his old memories awaken, he shares with Clara his darkest secret: the life he has tried to bury for years. There was a past incarnation of the Doctor that fought in the Time War, and made the ultimate decision to eliminate the Daleks and the Time Lords. And it was done after the events depicted in this painting…

The Daleks ravage Arcadia. As children cry and the people scream, a soldier sends a message to the High Council of Time Lords: Arcadia has fallen. He looks around and sees the Doctor’s TARDIS. Then the elderly voice of the “War Doctor” asks the soldier for his gun. The Doctor uses the weapon to shoot a message for both warring civilisations into a nearby wall: NO MORE. As the Daleks prepare to exterminate a group of Gallifreyans, the Doctor’s presence is detected and draws their attention away from the innocent people and they discover the message. Suddenly, the Doctor’s TARDIS crashes through the wall, demolishing several Daleks. The Doctor’s escape from Arcadia is witnessed by a single Dalek. It questions the meaning of “NO MORE”, bellowing “Explain! Explain!” but explodes into flames.

Gallifreyan Commanders gather in the War Room, planning their next moves, with the General dismissing the High Council’s plans as “they have already failed”. They receive the Doctor’s message, and the General is not pleased to learn of his presence, calling him a madman. A Time Lady rushes in to inform the War Council that there has been a breach in the Omega Arsenal in the Time Vaults. The most feared and forbidden weapon in the universe is missing: The Moment. The Doctor has stolen it, and intends to use it to end the Time War once and for all. The Time Lords have already used all of the previously forbidden weapons, but dared not unleash this weapon in particular. It was said that the Moment was the ultimate weapon, capable of eradicating all life in its vicinity with the exception of the person who activates it, leaving them alone to be haunted by that action forever. The General muses that only the Doctor would be mad enough to use such a weapon.

Footsteps can be seen leading away from the battle-scuffed TARDIS, which has been uncharacteristically abandoned by the Doctor. The sound of his voice issuing an ominous final warning is heard: “Time Lords of Gallifrey, Daleks of Skaro, I serve notice on you all. Too long I have stayed my hand. No more. Today you leave me no choice. Today, this war will end. No more. No more…” The Doctor’s tired face comes into view as he strides across a desert surface, a burlap sack over his shoulder. He enters a barn-like dwelling, where he uncovers a complicated mechanical box, covered in gears. The device ticks loudly as its clockwork-like parts rattle and clank. As the Doctor studies it, he cannot find a discernible trigger mechanism. He puzzles over how to activate it grumbling “Why is there never a big red button?” Surprisingly he hears a voice. Confused he looks around the barn and realises there is nobody else there. Turning around he realises it is the Moment which is the voice which he can here. “How are you doing that?” the Doctor asks. “I exist on a higher plane of consciousness. I am the interface. I am the Moment.” War-weary and bitter, the elderly Time Lord confirms that the Moment needs time to activate, a strategy which he determines is to allow the person looking to use it time to consider their actions, to count the lives which will be lost. The Moment then reveals that it can provide an escape route out of his predicament, opening a time fissure. More than that the Moment can show him his future, to see what becomes of him after his action – but a fez falls out, much to the confusion of the Doctor…

Back in the 21st century, Kate Stewart explains that the painting was discovered deep within the gallery vaults, hidden away. The Doctor ponders how the painting could possibly be on 21st Century Earth. As Kate leads the Doctor and Clara away, a nearby UNIT scientist named McGillop receives a mysterious phone call. Befuddled, he stares at the painting, wondering why he should move it.

The Doctor and Clara move through the Gallery, he recalls a time when he investigated other strange occurrences in the National Gallery shortly after opening in 1838 but he was a different man back then…

The camera focuses on a particular painting but panning out there is a blur as two shapes sprint past the painting. The Tenth Doctor and Rose are running down the corridor. They turn round a corner and back up against the wall, short of breath Rose asks,            “What the hell was that? All red and suckers!” The Doctor explains, “It was a Zygon. But what are they doing here?” “And I thought the Ood looked bad enough,” says Rose. The Doctor explains that they have to find out what the Zygons are doing here, they peer around the corner and are spotted by a Zygon. Another chase along the corridors begins until the Doctor and Rose reach a gallery, closing the doors and pushing benches up against them. Outside the Zygon bangs on the door. The Doctor triumphantly reports that the Zygon cannot get in, only for Rose to point out that they now also cannot get out. Suddenly a time fissure appears, and a fez lands in front of the Doctor and Rose, much to their bemusement.

Back in the National Gallery, Kate welcomes the Eleventh Doctor and Clara to the Under-Gallery, a secret storage area established deep underground. The Doctor notices that the floor is covered in stone dust, and asks a scientist named Osgood to analyse it and produce a report (in triplicate with lots of graphs). As they walk through the gallery, the Doctor spots a fez in a glass case and immediately dons it, much to the bemusement of Clara, who wonders if he can ever go past one without putting it on, which he cannot do.

Kate shows them more 3-D paintings, landscapes this time but with the broken glass from their shattered frames covering the floor. The Doctor notes that the glass has been shattered from the inside, and Kate says that they all contained figures which have now disappeared. Suddenly, another time fissure opens. Puzzled, the Doctor faintly recalls seeing the fissure before, before realising that the fez that had fallen through in 1838 was the fez he was now wearing. Delighted, he throws the fez into the fissure and follows it. Clara tries to follow, but Kate restrains her.

The Eleventh Doctor falls through the fissure and lands in front of his predecessor in the nineteenth century. Stunned, the Tenth Doctor dons the fez himself. The Eleventh jumps up and rambles excitedly about how skinny his predecessor is, which makes the Tenth realise his identity. They incredulously pull out their sonic screwdrivers and compare them. Rose takes a liking to the Eleventh Doctor, pointing out that his sonic is bigger! As the Doctors begin bickering, the time fissure increases in intensity. The Eleventh shouts through the tunnel to Clara. Hypothesising that the fissure can go both ways, he tosses his fez in, but it fails to appear in Clara’s time. Kate then leaves, to call one of the UNIT members to bring her the Cromer file – not noticing a dark shadow behind her…

At the end of the Time War, the War Doctor picks up the fez and steps into the fissure.

Back in 1838, the two Doctors try to reverse the polarity, but the use of two sonic screwdrivers at once confuses the polarity, resulting in the War Doctor falling through and landing in front of his future selves. He jovially greets them, asking after the Doctor and mistaking them for his companions. The two older Doctors, both disturbed on seeing their former incarnation, pull out their sonic screwdrivers, affirming their identity to their younger self. Unimpressed by his future incarnations, the War Doctor asks if he is going through a mid-life crisis. Suddenly, the Zygons break through the door and into the gallery surrounding the three Doctors and Rose. They are threatened by the Zygons, but Clara’s voice sounds from the fissure making them cautious about destroying the Doctors and Rose, so instead the Zygons imprison them.

Kate has returned to Clara, comes up with an idea and takes Clara to the UNIT Black Archive to retrieve Jack Harkness’ vortex manipulator in order to save the Doctors.

The Doctors and Rose are thrown into a cleaner’s cupboard. The War Doctor tries to sonic the door, but it fails and so sits down. The Tenth asks why these three Doctors have been brought together, whilst he and his Eleventh incarnation try to work out a way of getting through a tiny ventilation shaft.

In the present, Osgood and McGilop are reading the results of the analysis of the stone dust. The dust is from materials not found in the structure of the building, but common in statues. Osgood realises that the statues must have been smashed, and suddenly understands why: the inhabitants of the paintings needed a place to hide. The Zygons reveal themselves from underneath the dust cloths covering what the humans had believed were statues. The aliens accost McGilop, and corner Osgood. Osgood prays for the Doctor to save her, but instead of being killed, she is faced with her duplicate. The Zygon taunts Osgood, but she gains the upper hand by tripping the alien with her scarf, and runs away.

Kate and Clara enter the Black Archive, housing the most dangerous alien artefacts recovered by UNIT. Its contents are so top secret that staff have their memories wiped every day. It transpires that this is not the first time which Clara has visited the archive. They view the Vortex Manipulator. Osgood and McGilop enter the Archive, to Clara’s surprise. They reveal themselves as Zygons, as does Kate. Whilst Zygon Kate updates Zygon Osgood and Zygon McGilop that they have acquired the device, revelling in the fact that the Zygons now possess the ability to time travel, Clara takes her opportunity, grabbing the Vortex Manipulator and uses it to travel to the past.

The War Doctor proposes an isolated sonic shift in the door molecules in order to disintegrate the door, but the Tenth Doctor rejects the idea, saying it would take centuries to calculate the necessary formula. The War Doctor starts bickering with the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, chastising them for ashamed of being a “grown-up”. Subdued, they look at him darkly, reminding him of the day he ended the Time War. Rose sits down and talks with the War Doctor. She remembers back to when she first met the Doctor, his ninth incarnation. He was a broken man, haunted by his actions. But it didn’t make him a bad person.  The War Doctor asks his future selves ‘How many children died on Gallifrey that day?’ The Eleventh Doctor says, “I’ve absolutely no idea.” The Tenth Doctor suddenly gives him a look of outrage and disgust, the Eleventh Doctor claims he doesn’t know how many children died, he says he’s forgotten the events of that day; he’s so old that he’s not even sure of his age anymore, so old that he can’t remember if he’s lying about his age. However, the Tenth Doctor angrily asks how the Eleventh could ever forget something as important as this particular number, and bitterly states that there were 2.47 billion children on the planet that day. Disturbed by his successor’s impassive nature, he asks him, “For once, I would like to know where I’m going.” Irked by this remark, the Eleventh Doctor coldly replies, “No, you really wouldn’t!” The Tenth Doctor looks back at him, deeply concerned. Rose explains to the War Doctor that the Tenth Doctor has become “the man who regrets” and the Eleventh “the man who forgets”. They are the future of the Doctor. The War Doctor muses that his sonic screwdriver, at the most basic level, is the exact same device as the ones used by his counterparts: “Same software — different case”. He realises that if he scans the door and implants the calculations as a permanent subroutine in the screwdriver, it will take hundreds of years to work out the formula necessary to disintegrate the door, meaning that the Eleventh Doctor’s screwdriver, being essentially the same as the ones before it, has the completed calculation ready to go. They exuberantly congratulate themselves on their cleverness before Clara bursts in through the door, telling them that the key had been in the door the whole time. Clara chastises the three Doctors for being so obtuse.

The real Osgood walks through the halls of the Under-Gallery, before discovering the real Kate trapped in a Zygon body print chamber. Osgood frees her, but Kate bemoans the fact that the Zygons now have control of the Black Archive and also the planet.

The Doctors, Rose and Clara sneak back through to the gallery, whereupon they observe the Zygons preparing their plan. The Eleventh Doctor explains to Rose and Clara that the Zygons have decided to take Earth as their new home after their planet had been destroyed in the early battles of the Time War. However, the nineteenth century version of Earth is too primitive for the invading shape shifters, so they intend to invade the future in order to establish their new home world. They therefore have translated themselves into stasis cubes using the Time Lords’ three-dimensional painting technology. Clara points out that the Zygons have not just infiltrated the future but have access to the UNIT Black Archive.

The three Doctors, Clara and Rose return to the Tenth Doctor’s TARDIS, with the other two Doctors insulting the desktop theme. The presence of three different Doctors causes the TARDIS to short out, revealing the interior of the War Doctor’s TARDIS, then finally the most current TARDIS desktop, which also receives an insult, except from Rose, who really quite likes it, much to the hurt of the Tenth Doctor. They set off for the Black Archive.

Kate, Osgood, and McGillop confront their doppelgangers in the Black Archive. Kate threatens to detonate a nuclear warhead beneath the Tower, destroying all of London in order to protect the planet from the Zygons, and voice-activates it, blocking her Zygon duplicate’s attempts to stop the countdown with her identical voice pattern. The Eleventh Doctor’s voice is heard begging Kate not to detonate the warhead, via the space-time telegraph he had once given to her father, but she cuts him off. He tries to land, but the Tower of London had been made TARDIS-proof to prevent his interference. However, the War Doctor figures out a way to get in, using stasis cubes. The Doctor calls McGillop in the past, and instructs him to bring the “No More”/”Gallifrey Falls” painting to the Black Archive…

The two Kates fight over the detonation, both needing to agree in order to stop the detonation. The real Osgood begs the Doctor to save them again. The Doctors, Rose and Clara have frozen themselves in a painting, but now face the Fall of Arcadia as it unfolds, and are immediately met by an attacking Dalek, which the Doctors repel with their sonic screwdrivers. It crashes through the glass of the painting and the Doctors emerge. Clara and Rose soon follow.

The three Doctors hand the two Kate Stewarts an ultimatum when they refuse to disarm the Black Archive’s nuclear warhead: they corrupt the memory modifiers to confuse everybody making them unaware if they are Human or Zygon. Then, if they stop the detonation and create a peace treaty, which is bound to be fair as the negotiators can’t remember which side they’re on; they will have their memories restored. Utterly confused over their identities, the two Kates stop the detonation and begin to negotiate the treaty.

As the treaty negotiations continue, Clara speaks to the War Doctor. She explains that “her” Doctor always talked about the day he wiped out the Time Lords. She says that he would do anything to take it back, but the War Doctor remains convinced that his actions will save billions of lives in the future. Clara goes to get a cup of tea. Across the room, the War Doctor notices a time fissure has opened and realises that the time has come to make his choice. When Clara returns the War Doctor has vanished.

Back in the barn, the War Doctor stands in front of the Moment, which now has a trigger mechanism in the form of a big red button for him to push. The interface questions him once more. He still doesn’t believe he is worthy of the name “Doctor”, losing all hope, that is until his future selves arrive and step out of their TARDISes. They join him at the Moment, finally forgiving him, and themselves, for their actions, ready to support the man who was the Doctor more than anybody else. The three of them prepare to push the button together, but Clara tearfully objects. She knew that “the Doctor” had activated the Moment and destroyed his home planet, but she had never imagined the Eleventh Doctor, her Doctor, with his hand on the button. Rose begs for them to come up with another idea.

The reality of the Time War projects around them: children crying, innocents suffering. The Doctor could not find another way to end it all, but Clara and Rose believe there is a different solution. They remind the Time Lord of who he is: the Warrior, the Hero, and the Doctor. They’ve had plenty of warriors, and what he will do is a heroic act in itself. What the universe needs now is a Doctor who lives up to the name he chose for himself: never cruel or cowardly, never giving up and never giving in.

A brilliant new idea descends upon the group of Time Lords; the Eleventh Doctor says that he’s had a long time to think about it — he’s changed his mind! The Tenth Doctor has the same lightbulb moment. The intent of the Moment has worked: the War Doctor saw the future he needed to see and thus a better solution has been thought up. Picking up on the idea, the War Doctor agrees that it’s a wonderful idea. They have changed their minds about using the Moment, and the Eleventh Doctor disarms the device with his sonic screwdriver. Instead, they intend to freeze Gallifrey in a moment in time, tucked away in a parallel pocket universe, the way the Zygons froze themselves into the Time Lord art. When Gallifrey vanishes, the sphere of Dalek ships surrounding the planet and firing constantly will be destroyed in their own crossfire before they can stop firing, and the universe will believe that the two races destroyed each other.

On the last day of the Time War, another message from the Doctor appears before the High Command: GALLIFREY STANDS. The three Doctors in their respective TARDISes travel towards Gallifrey, and transmit a message to the War Room. Three transmissions, each showing a different Doctor (much to the General’s dismay), appear. They explain their crazy plan to save Gallifrey. They will position themselves around the planet equidistantly, and freeze it using the stasis cubes. The General objects, claiming that the calculations would take centuries, but the Eleventh Doctor is well prepared for the task. After all, he’s had centuries to think about it. The voice of the First Doctor is heard contacting the War Council of Gallifrey. More police boxes fly around the planet, all the past incarnations of the Doctor have come together to save Gallifrey. His second through eighth incarnations check in with High Command, while the post-war Ninth Doctor delights in the act of redemption he always wished for. The General bemoans the idea that all twelve Doctors have arrived, when three was bad enough. However, his count is one short. All thirteen regenerations of the Doctor are present to save Gallifrey — a new incarnation from the Doctor’s days yet to come is also present, briefly glimpsed in the form of a hand moving a lever and his fierce eyes. As the Daleks increase their attack upon seeing the thirteen TARDISes, the General instructs the Doctor to do it now. After a colossal explosion, the space becomes empty and quiet as a damaged Dalek fighter pod goes spinning off.

Back in the National Gallery, the Tenth, Eleventh, and War Doctors muse on the ambiguity of whether their plan succeeded or not. The presence of the mysterious painting of the fall of Arcadia remains an enigma to the three Doctors. The War Doctor bids a fond farewell to his replacements, who finally address him as “Doctor”: a man fully worthy of the title, even if he will only know it briefly. Because the time lines are out of sync, the War Doctor and the Tenth Doctor won’t be able to retain their memories of these events. They will forget them completely until they reach their Eleventh incarnation. However, right now, the War Doctor is content. He gives Clara and Rose a farewell kiss and takes a moment to identify his TARDIS from the other two in the gallery. As he dematerialises his TARDIS, he notices his hands glowing with regeneration energy, and realises it makes sense, as his old body is “wearing a bit thin”, he collapses to the floor of the Tardis. After surviving the Time War, he is ultimately dying of old age. With his work done in the battle, the energy begins to overtake the War Doctor. He expresses one last desire that the change will leave him with “less conspicuous” ears this time. The War Doctor regenerates into his new incarnation but he awakens confused, disorientated and suffering from amnesia caused by the time lines being out of sync.

Acknowledging that he won’t be able to remember the answer, the Tenth Doctor questions his successor as to “where they’re going”, something which the Eleventh Doctor so clearly wants to forget. The Eleventh Doctor relents and reveals that they are destined to die on Trenzalore, in battle, with millions of lives lost. The Tenth Doctor says that’s not how it’s supposed to be, but the Eleventh Doctor tells him it is determined now. Preparing to leave, the Tenth Doctor tells himself that he’s glad his future is in good hands. He kisses Clara’s hand, receiving a glare from Rose as she enters the TARDIS, and with a smile the Tenth Doctor also starts to step into his TARDIS. Before he does, he expresses his desire to change their final destination of Trenzalore, saying: “I don’t want to go.” As the TARDIS dematerialises, the Eleventh Doctor remarks “he always says that”.

Clara asks the Doctor if he would like to sit and look at the painting for a little while. He smiles, asking how she knew. Clara kisses him on the cheek and tells him that she always knows — it’s his sad old eyes. As she steps into the TARDIS, she mentions that an old man, possibly the Gallery’s curator, was looking for him. The Doctor muses out loud that he would be a great curator. He could call himself “the Great Curator”, retire and become the curator of this gallery. A very familiar voice affirms that he really might. The astonished Doctor looks over to see a very familiar face standing next to him. An old man who greatly resembles the Fourth Doctor speaks to him of the painting, which he says he acquired under “remarkable circumstances”. He tells the Doctor that its two names are actually one: the true title of the painting is “Gallifrey Falls No More”. The Doctor realises that he was successful, and Gallifrey was indeed saved. The mysterious man reveals that it is simply “lost”, and that the Doctor still has a lot to do. He also muses that he and the Doctor might be the same man from different perspectives, sounding wistful about days gone by, congratulating the Doctor on the new journey he is about to commence. As to whether or not he truly is an incarnation of the Doctor from the future, the Curator simply teases the thought, “Who knows, eh? Who… ‘nose’?”, and with a tap of his nose, he turns and walks away. The Eleventh Doctor concludes that he has a mission, the mission of a lifetime: he must find Gallifrey and return it and its people to the universe.

Reflectively the Doctor speaks of his dreams, as he is seen to walk through the TARDIS console room. He says that he finally realises where he has been travelling all this time: home. As he exits the TARDIS, the Doctor joins his eleven past selves in gazing up at the magnificent planet in the sky, determined to find Gallifrey and save his home once and for all.

“It’s taken me so many years, so many lifetimes, but at last I know where I’m going. Where I’ve always been going: Home, the long way round.”

REVIEW: ‘JN-T: The Life & Scandalous Times of John Nathan Turner’

JNT bookThis book is meticulously researched, frequently shocking and ultimately very poignant. Refreshingly frank, there are certain passages which will make the reader uncomfortable and it is those accounts which at the time of publishing attracted the attention of the mainstream media. For Doctor Who fans it covers an extensive and turbulent period of the show’s long history which is often ridiculed, not very fondly remembered and proves incredibly divisive. Finally, some of the inside stories of what went on during those unpredictable years are now revealed.

I only met JNT once, at the Doctor Who exhibition in Llangollen, North Wales in February 1997, which amusingly was renamed the ‘Doctor Who Experience’. Being a youngster I wasn’t fully aware of the behind the scenes element of the show or what a producer was for a start. I don’t recall if it was me or my father who recognised him first, stood outside the exhibition puffing away on a cigarette. Either way he had a presence about him, an air of authority perhaps, at least that was my perspective. I must have his distinctive autograph somewhere.

The book traces John’s journey from humble beginnings in Birmingham to the BBC and his final, sad end. He first worked on Doctor Who in 1969 as floor assistant on ‘The Space Pirates’ and would work sporadically on the show during his time learning the ropes within the BBC studio management department. In 1977 he became production unit manager on Doctor Who and a few years later became the producer and would retain that position until the show ended its original TV run in 1989, making him the longest serving producer of the show.

As already mentioned, when this book was published it gained a significant amount of media attention, coming on the back of revelations concerning Jimmy Saville at the BBC, making for a dubious front page story for the Daily Mirror. To be perfectly clear, none of the revelations claimed within the book are even remotely in the same league as the atrocities committed by Jimmy Saville. Inappropriate behaviour did occur, in BBC premises, and even while on the phone to Blue Peter matriarch Biddy Baxter. The author also includes an account of how he was propositioned at the age of 17 in the BBC club after a studio day; politely declining and making a swift exit. However, the author categorically states that “although I did meet some people who felt that their treatment at the hands of John and Gary was inappropriate, it would not be true to say that I’ve found anyone willing to testify to coercion or abuse”. That Gary was JNT’s long term partner Gary Downie, production manager on some Doctor Who stories during the late 1980’s. He is an individual that comes across very badly throughout the book. Unfortunately because the legal age of consent for homosexual intercourse was not lowered from 21 to 16 years, consistent with heterosexual law, until 2001 some of their activity was thus illegal. The author recants an incident he suffered where he was sexually assaulted by Gary Downie in a BBC building, hiding under a desk with only a script for ‘Timelash’ episode 2 to defend himself with.  Any Doctor Who fan who has endured the turgid atrocity that is ‘Timelash’ will agree that this was the only positive thing the script ever achieved. However, the most disturbing story concerns a complaint made by the mother of a 14 year old boy against Gary Downie during the production of a panto in Chesham. The complaint was later dropped but the story further supports the predatory accusations which are levelled at Downie.

Throughout the book, John Nathan Turner is described in largely favourable terms but his partner on the other hand is a total contrast. Gary Downie is described as vicious, vindictive and difficult to work with. He died in 2006. JNT was also flawed as many a Doctor Who fan will attest to. His decisions concerning Colin Baker’s costume or Bonnie Langford’s casting as a companion are often cited as evidence for his inadequacies. However, as the story unfolds it becomes more and more apparent that in reality he was performing miracles to even keep the show on the screen for as long as it was.

Doctor Who had suffered significantly towards the end of the 1970’s. Tom Baker had become more difficult to manage. The budget for the show failed to stretch enough to accommodate the requirements. An entire story had even been abandoned due to industrial action. On screen the product had become sillier with, as JNT described, an ‘undergraduate humour’ which removed some of the dramatic tension. This was the environment which he was thrust into. He’d not been a producer before and was now responsible for a show which needed a lift. Tasked with taking the show into the 1980’s he immediately made stylistic changes, a new title sequence and theme music arrangement. Even Tom Baker’s costume got a refresh, but still retained the iconic scarf. By the end of that season he was also looking for a new leading man, a task he would need to complete on a further 2 occasions. Peter Davison’s first season saw the ratings increase and, although dipping the following year, they remained fairly consistent with 6.5 – 8 million viewers every week.

JNT was a very solid producer. He was adept at keeping the show in budget and as a result senior BBC management were comfortable in the fact that the show would be delivered without horrendous overspends. However, pressure and paranoia raged in the Doctor Who office and the workload was not limited to just the production. JNT was responsible for promoting the show with the press, approving products and pretty much every other aspect of the show’s life which nowadays requires teams of people to manage. Despite all his efforts he was thought of with disdain by bosses such as Michael Grade, controller of BBC 1, and Jonathan Powell, head of Drama. It wasn’t helped that neither individual approved of the shows output and its failings instigated the decision to place the show on hiatus in 1985. As a result they were reluctant to put JNT on any other shows, tarring him as a Doctor Who producer only and a failed one at that. A telling quote from Jonathan Powell states that he “wanted him to fuck off and solve it – or die, really.” The programme was not given any more money and was reduced to only 14 episodes a year, the ratings also plummeted. However, JNT utilised the 14 episode handicap during Sylvester McCoy’s tenure well, managing to make 4 different stories within those 14 episodes. What is crystal clear is that JNT was a passionate BBC man and that he adored Doctor Who. Sometimes however his actions were certainly dubious.

The book includes accounts of activity outside of the workplace which perhaps has no place being made public, even in death a person’s private life should remain private, not described in order to elicit a reaction or judgement. However, what is clear is that there were incidents where JNT would dangle the carrot of studio visits, souvenirs and information as a way to obtain sexual liaisons. The crass term of “doable barkers” was used to identify individuals who aroused his interest. These actions go far beyond inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour, but were a blatant abuse of his position of power. Unfortunately the way JNT attempted to appeal to fans, bringing back popular villains such as the Cyberman and the Master for instance, would ultimately result in his downfall. Football fans sit in the pub and talk about all the wrong decisions the manager at the club is making and how they could do things better. Doctor Who fans are exactly the same, part of what make them so unique. That passion for the show however can be dangerous and sadly during the mid to late 1980’s fandom became more vocal, more vicious and JNT was the target for those opinions.

JNT however was ahead of his time in some of his thinking. He recognised the potential of the growing American fandom, regularly attending conventions in the US. Now the ‘comic con’ circuit in America is massive, with Doctor Who being one of the most popular shows represented. He also understood the need to publicise the programme, and attempted to boost ratings by ‘stunt – casting’ recognisable names. This method can be effective as seen with Voyage of the Damned (2007) which featured a starring role for Kylie Minogue and achieved the highest viewing figures of the modern show. Given that one of the criticisms levelled by the BBC against the show during the 1980’s was low viewing figures who can blame him for trying to boost them in this way. He was further hampered by being scheduled up against the television colossus that was and still is ‘Coronation Street’.

Doctor Who finally stopped production with the last story ‘Survival’ being screened in 1989. JNT was made redundant by the BBC, his final day being 31st August, a date which parallels my own experience, 1990. His career never recovered. Drinking had always been a part of his working life, something not unique to John and rife throughout the BBC during that period. Faced with rejection after rejection for other job opportunities, his parents increasingly failing health and the burden placed upon him as the man responsible for the demise of Doctor Who, he drank more and more. Eventually, it would be his undoing, costing him his life. He died in 2002 of multi-organ failure and alcoholic liver disease.

It is such a sad and tragic end for a man who did a lot for the show, sometimes got things wrong but should be credited for keeping the show going against insurmountable odds. He was let down by the BBC, a corporation he clearly loved and was proud to work for, being kicked to the kerb instead of being placed into working on something which would’ve suited his talents. Although clearly flawed, he was a human being who deserved better treatment and should be remembered for his contribution to Doctor Who.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. His shocking falling out with Nicola Bryant stands out as a particularly difficult story to read but demonstrates that as well documented as Doctor Who has been over the years there are still tales to tell, even if some of them prove unpleasant to learn.

The use of green screen technology in Doctor Who

Rings of Akhaten 2The use of ‘green screen’ in the production of Doctor Who has been significant, based upon the technology of replacing a specific colour with a background or model to create a visual which may not be achievable for practical or budgetary reasons. ‘Green screen’ has since been used in a myriad of other productions including motion picture franchises such as, Harry Potter and Star Wars, but also for TV weather forecast bulletins, for example. However, Doctor Who is a programme which has always been innovative and at the beginning of the 1970’s the technique was first being utilised by the production team.Warriors Gate

Barry Letts, Doctor Who’s producer from 1969 to 1974 championed the special effects procedure, known as ‘Colour Separation Overlay’ or ‘CSO’. Whilst today the technique utilises a distinctive green colour, back then the colour was often blue or occasionally yellow. These three colours are used because they do not include tones found in human skin so an actor’s features wouldn’t be lost. The technique involves the separation of the background colour from the shot and overlaying a different image, or more simply the colour is ‘keyed out’ hence the technique’s alternate name ‘chroma key’. Different images used can vary, from two-dimensional matte paintings to 3-dimensional models. For instance, the actors may be on one part of the studio whilst in another corner a second camera is pointed at a miniature model. The two shots once mixed together are then recorded live.

The Green Death  CSO1_DeathtotheDaleks  CSO2_DeathtotheDaleks  Robot

The first use of CSO in Doctor Who came in the 1970 story ‘The Silurians’ including for the reveal of the Tyrannosaurus and was frequently used from then onwards. Other classic Doctor Who episodes with notable CSO usage include the maggots and giant fly attack in ‘The Green Death’ (1973), the Exillon City in ‘Death to the Daleks’ (1974) and ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’ (1974) with the model dinosaurs being inserted into live action sequences. A similar version of this method can be seen in ‘The Fires of Pompeii’ (2008) to create the shot of the Doctor using his water pistol on the Pyroville. This however, was done digitally as technology has developed but the principle remains the same. The technique can also be used for effects such as something growing, for example, Azal in ‘The Daemons’ (1972) and the K1 Robot in ‘Robot’ (1974).

cso_underworld  cso_terror of the autons  cso_terror of the autons2  Time Flight

A notable story which utilised CSO extensively was ‘Underworld’ (1978). For severe budgetary reasons it was not possible to build full size sets needed for some scenes. As a result CSO was used to create the cave scenes of the alien planet, with a significant portion of the studio being only a blue background wall and floor, testing the actors and production team to the limit. This was a technique which had also been used during the filming of ‘Terror of the Autons’ (1971) where CSO was used as a background instead of constructing sets. The process would continue to be used in the 1980’s for stories such as ‘Meglos’ (1980) and ‘Time Flight’ (1982). The success of these effects over the years on Doctor Who is varied and the use of CSO is often noticeable by flaring or fuzzy edges but as technology has improved generally so have CSO techniques.

Rings of Akhaten 1Now into the 21st Century the Doctor Who production team still utilise ‘green screen’ technology, with more complicated effects such as the Werewolf in ‘Tooth and Claw’ (2006) and the headless and armless Cyberman from ‘The Pandorica Opens’ (2010) achieved using the same theory. Similarly, the shark-pulled flying rickshaw in ‘A Christmas Carol’ (2010), shots for ‘The Rings of Akhaten’ (2013) and even David Tennant’s final recording on his original run as the Doctor was conducted on ‘green screen’ for ‘The End of Time: Part 2’. Therefore it seems likely that Doctor Who will forever continue to use ‘green screen’ in the production of the show.