I’ve been writing this blog seriously for almost a year now, so maybe its time we got to know each other a little better. So here are some of my favourite TV series.
This is a no brainer, it will always be my favourite show, the thing with time travel is that it can be anything, a period drama, a historic epic or a sci-fi masterpiece and Doctor Who manages to be all of them at once.
A fictional account of the first Englishman to come to Japan you get the costumes and the customs that you would expect. and you’re made to feel lost in this strange land yourself, because as the use of the Japanese language, without subtitles, goes on, you begin to pick it up for yourself, all while you get swept up in the intrigues and intricacies of feudal Japan.
You would think sarcastic doctors drinking on the front line of the Korean War would grow thin really very quickly, but what M*A*S*H did, was probably the first sitcom to marry drama and social commentary in a wartime setting, whilst another, war was being waged, and managed to do it for over a decade.
The Thick Of It
Political spin, British style, its something that I can relate to, and most of the way through I actually find myself thinking, this is so accurate. Not to mention Malcom F Tucker.
I’m not really a fan of period dramas, so I don’t know why I like Downton Abbey so much, except maybe for the biting wit of Dame Maggie Smith.
Since I’ve been left in charge of organising my wedding, I have been looking at ideas for wedding decorations, and the idea that infuriates me most, are centrepieces. Whilst they often look nice I don’t really want to be spending a great deal of money on what is essentially table dressing, I mean runners and tablecloths are going to cost enough without adding some massive floral monstrosity into the budget.
And then it hit me, after looking through the photo’s of my Aunts wedding many centrepieces these days are simple affairs such as pebbles in a fish bowl. So thats where my idea has stemmed, but also incorporates my love of nerdy stuff and Jessica’s love of miniatures. So came the idea of some themed terrarium’s.
Towel day is celebrated every year on the 25th of May in celebration of the life and works of author Douglas Adams (1952-2001). Douglas Adams was the genius behind The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy series as well as the two novels which made up the Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency series which comprised the Salmon of Doubt and The Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul.
As if these accomplishments weren’t enough to warrant an international holiday, Douglas Adams also served as a writer and later script editor on my favourite television show, Doctor Who, Writing the Fourth Doctor serials, The Pirate Planet, The City Of Death and Shada, with Adam’s proposed film Doctor Who and The Krikkitmen being released as a novel posthumously later this year.
Douglas Adams created many worlds and races that spoke to the imagination of peoples all over the globe, he shone lights on the absurdities of life the universe and everything, he was a modern day philosopher, whose works show that even if we were given the meaning of life on a plate, we still wouldn’t have a clue what that meaning actually was. His works will endure for centuries as hallmarks of both science fiction and social commentary.
After the cancellation of Doctor Who after 26 series there was a massive outcry from fans of the show for a continuation of the show. And they got several, but not in the way that they wanted.
Direct To Video
What you actually got were a few different continuations the canonical nature of which are all pretty much up for debate, there were some direct to video productions from companies such as BBV and Reeltime. However because of the unlicensed nature of these programmes they could not feature any overt reference to the Doctor, Time Lords or the Tardis. Between BBV and Reeltime you got productions such as Shakedown, Downtime, Wartime, Daemos Rising, Zygon’s, Auton’s and P.R.O.B.E. These all took old companions and friends of the Doctor, or old adversaries and allowed them to have adventures on earth or in space, without the aid of the Doctor, a trend that would continue when the series was revived with spin offs such as Torchwood, Class, K-9 and the Sarah Jane Adventures.
The quality of some of these direct to video stories were fantastic, others were not so good, and many I think were hampered by an abundance of ambition, but were lacking the resources to accomplish what they set out to do.
Stand Out Stories
Wartime: Wartime was the first attempt at a Whoniverse spin off released by reeltime, and while it was a low budget picture, the premise of which was a little shaky, but still it manages to show that it can be done. Jon Levene as John Benton manages to convince audiences of fear that comes when confronted over the guilt of ones own past.
Downtime: It should have been good, Sarah Jane Smith fighting alongside the Brigadier, bringing his career full circle fighting the Yeti and The Great Intelligence (the Brigadier’s first appearance was fighting the Yeti in the London underground), but it wasn’t good, no such luck, the dialogue was stilted and the Yeti costumes had not aged well.
Whilst BBV and Reeltime were kicking about the companions and classic monsters of the Whoniverse, both the Doctors past and then current incarnations adventures were being looked at in depth courtesy of Virgin Books, the publishing division of Richard Branson’s Virgin Empire. Under Virgin there were three series of books published focusing on the adventures of the Doctor (as well as numerous fact books as well) These were Decalog a series of books 5 books collecting short stories from various points in the Doctor’s lives. The Missing Adventures, a series of 34 books, featured Doctors 1-6 and their companions at various points throughout their history set between serials of the original run of the show.
And then there were The New Adventures, a series of 61 books all but one of which were set between the last serial Survival and The Television Movie and feature the Seventh Doctor as portrayed by Sylvester McCoy (the last book of the series was set after the TV movie and features the Eighth Doctor as portrayed by Paul McGann). The series itself moved forward the characters of Ace and The Doctor, and explored a vast swathe of the shows fictional history, and in many ways served to tie up loose ends and plot threads that had been left by the show, and reintroduced characters such as the War Chief, The Great Vampire and the Monk. As well as seeing the return of characters Leela and Romana, The Brigadier and saw the death of companion Liz Shaw. The New Adventures also saw the introduction of long serving companion Bernice Summerfield, who would later enjoy her own series of novels and audio drama’s that are still in production to this day. The stories see the relation ship between Ace and The Doctor grow increasingly more fraught, before she leaves for a time, before returning several years (from her point of view) later. The stories took on a darker tone that mimicked the latter parts of the series, with the Doctor fighting Lovecraftian beings and the stories took on a more adult theme, with cursing and sexual content becoming more commonplace, and whilst older villains and alien races were featured regularly the stories didn’t rely on them, with the Dalek’s only being seen in a cameo 40 or so books in and the Cybermen appearing only once. It made use of the lesser villains within the narrative framework, and worked as a nice way to round off the series and answer a good deal of unanswered questions that had plagued the series since its beginning.
Stand Out Stories
Cats Cradle, Times Crucible: This Novel features possibly the most in depth look into time lord history , it shows the birth of time travel and shows the formation of the sisterhood of Karn (from the serial The Brain Of Morbius) and shows how the Doctor’s people went from being plain old Gallifreyans to becoming Time Lords.
Love and War: This book saw ace leave the Doctor and the introduction of the character Bernice Summerfield, and it truly shows this incarnation of the Doctor at his most manipulative and at his lowest point ever.
No Future: This novel is set in London during the Age of Punk and brings back the Brigadier and U.N.I.T, but also the return of the Doctor’s foes the Monk and The Vardan’s who have teamed up to exact revenge on the Doctor, it is also the culmination of events that have proceeded this novel and it is where the Doctor finally begins to make amends with ace for all the pain she has suffered because of simply knowing the doctor.
Head Games: This sees the return of companion Mel , who after being abandoned by Sabalom Glitz , helps the Doctor defeat the Master of The Land Of Fiction, but disgusted at how the doctor has changed in this new incarnation she leaves him again.
First Frontier: The Master finally gets a new body, and a new cycle of regeneration’s courtesy of the Tzun Confederation, setting the stage for the beginning of the TV movie, this piece is a bit of cold war, space age, spy action.
Lungbarrow: We finally find out who the Doctor is, or do we? Set of Gallifrey, in the house of Lungbarrow, the Doctors ancestral home, caught up in the conspiracy of a centuries old murder, and secrets that date back from the beginnings of Time Lord history, who is the this man called the Doctor? A healer? A traveller, A Time Lord, or something other?
Sky Pirates: Trying to write like Terry Pratchett is not a bad thing, I myself am certainly influenced by the mans writing style, but it doesn’t work with Doctor Who. and this story did not work, it was a pretty awful thing that I had a great deal of trouble following.
Falls The Shadow: Its torture porn. There are needless deaths, and I understand that the antagonists are meant to be psychopaths, but it really does seem that a lot of pointless torture takes place just for the hell of it, and I really feel that it was needless as it adds nothing to the overall story, other than to bump up the word count.
After Peter Davison’s departure from the role of the Doctor in March 1984, the role went to Colin Baker, the Doctors most colourful incarnation to date. Colin Baker stared in only 8 serials (33 episodes) until being replaced in 1987.
The Sixth Doctor
The Sixth Doctor was a man given to great eccentricities, donning a patchwork coat of rainbow hue, a pair of bright yellow pinstripe trousers, mismatched waistcoat, polkadot cravat and capped off with bright orange spats and a mop of curly blonde hair. Due to the trauma of his regeneration this Doctors personality was prone to violent outbursts of temper and a depressive sensibility, often at times brooding, his domineering personality was only enhanced by his great physical stature, a big man, both tall and broad, this Doctor was the most physically imposing to date.
Continuing his travels with Peri, The Doctor battle old enemies such as the Daleks and Cybermen, meeting new foes such as Sil and The Board, whilst meeting H.G Wells before coming across the Master and the sociopathic Time Lady the Rani, a being solely interested in the advancement of her scientific research, stopping at nothing to meet her ends.
The Doctor then once again meets one of his past selves, his second incarnation (played by Patrick Troughton), when this prior incarnation and Jamie are sent on a mission by the time lords to end rival experiments into time travel, experiments being conducted on behalf of the war like Sontaran’s, all to aid their war effort against the Rutan Host. Managing to save himself from the Sontaran’s grasp, both Doctors return to their proper place in time and space, the Second Doctor about to being exile on Earth and the Sixth Doctor still in 20th century Spain.
It is then that the Doctor faces the most difficult battle of his life, placed on trial by his own people the Doctor faces off against the mysterious Valeyard, a Gallifreyan prosecutor with a clear grudge against the Doctor. Presenting evidence from the Doctor’s past, a court room drama unfolds, in which the prosecution seems to stack against the Doctor, before a plot at the very heart of Time Lord society. The Doctor is framed by the Valeyard for the Death of Peri, before being revealed to by the Master as a potential future incarnation of the Doctor. Defeating the Valeyard and The Master, the Doctor meets new companion Mel, before discovering that Peri is still alive and well, living as a queen, his innocence secured the Doctor and Mel once again set off into time and space.
Whilst Colin Baker did not serve in the role long, two series in total, he is still the most colourful Doctor there has ever been and it saddens me a little that he didn’t come back for a regeneration scene, and whilst his successor is still probably my favourite doctor since William Hartnell, I feel that Colin Baker deserved better.
Stand Out Serials
The Trial Of A Time Lord: This was to be Colin Bakers last serial (also last series as it lasted a whole series), this 14 part saga, saw the departure of Peri, the introduction of companion Mel and recurring character Glitz, all whilst the Doctor battles through a trial, being enforced on him by his own people, with a biased Judge and vengeful prosecutor the Doctor is fighting for his lives.
Vengeance On Varos: Its a little like the hunger games, and a bit like big brother, all with the Doctor and Peri trying to get out of the clutches of a group of corrupt politicians and some slimy merchants.
The Two Doctors: Doctor meets Doctor in this head on collision that tires to see the Time Lords maintain their monopoly on time travel, in the heart of the endless conflict between the Might Sontaran Empire and the Rutan Host. This episode also gives rise to the series 6b fan theory, that in spinoff media suggests that the second Doctor didn’t go straight from courtroom to exile on earth, but was in fact acting as a secret agent of the Time Lords.
The Doctor and the Amazing Technicolour Nightmare Coat: Even Colin Baker admitted to absolutely loathing his costume, it was tartan, it was tweed, it was gingham and it was a rainbow coloured nightmare of fashion dont’s.
After the departure of Jon Pertwee from the role of the Doctor, Tom Baker began his tenure as what is probably the most memorable incarnation of the Doctor to date. Abandoning his capes and frills in favour of a battered fedora and 12 foot scarf Tom Baker was in the role from December 1974 until March 1981 and saw in some of the show’s most radical changes.
The Fourth Doctor
The Fourth Doctor was much different than his predecessors, for a start he was much younger in appearance, and his temperament was much different as well, prone to rambling monologues with a fondness for jelly babies and a little false modesty this Doctor was definitely a man of his own creation.
After fighting a giant robot bent on using the worlds stockpile of nuclear weaponry to wipe out humanity The Doctor chose to leave earth taking with him reporter Sarah Jane Smith and U.N.I.T doctor Harry Sullivan. They travel through time and space, meeting Sontarans, Cybermen, giant slugs, and even witness the birth of the Daleks at the hand of their creator Davros. After returning to earth Harry stays rejoining U.N.I.T after fighting the Loch Ness Monster. The Doctor and Sarah Jane return to space meeting various monsters including Morbius, an exiled Time Lord who led an uprising. Not long after this Sarah Jane leaves the Doctor so that he can return to Gallifrey.
Upon returning to Gallifrey the Doctor is implicated in the assassination of The Lord President, the plot it turns out to be a ploy of the Master, at the end of his regeneration cycle, decaying and emaciated, The Master tried to access the power of the Eye Of Harmony (a black hole that powers the Time Lords ability to time travel) but is thwarted in the attempt by the Doctor, who becomes president of the Time Lords in the process.
Running from Gallifrey the Doctor meets Leela, a savage from a primitive planet and the two travel together for some time, being joined by K-9 a robot dog with a laser in its nose. The three travel together for some time until The Doctor returns to Gallifrey to undertake his presidential responsibilities and fend of an invasion from the Vardans and The Sontarans. Lela remains on Gallifrey as the consort of gurard captain Andred, with K-9 remaining also.
The Doctor sets out with a new model of K-9 in an attempt to discover and then destroy the Key of Time, Joined by the Time Lady Romana the pair travel together for some time. After regenerating once Romana and the Doctor continue their travels, getting caught up in the Dalek Movellan war and an art forgery ring involving taking masterpieces from the past. The pair actually leave the universe, becoming trapped in a parallel dimension where they pick up a young stowaway Adric, before returning to their home dimension Romana and K-9 Mark II decide to remain behind.
Back in his home universe, the Doctor and Adric travel to Traken where the Doctor discovers a plot by The Master to once again gain limitless universal power. On Traken the Doctor meets new companion Nyssa whose fathers body is taken over by the Master, in this new body The Master departs Traken swearing revenge on the Doctor.After picking up another stowaway Tegan the Doctor then begins Working with the Master to stop the decaying of the universe, successful the Master then betrays the Doctor pushing him to his death, and a new regeneration.
Tom Baker is still to this day who most people see as the embodiment of the role of The Doctor, often quoting him as the definitive. He had the longest run and the best writers of the show’s history, and I would have to say that he just made the part so much fun. And I can say from personal experience, having met the man once, (his autograph sits on a shelf in my man cave) he seemed like a really nice man.
Stand Out Serials
Genesis of The Daleks: This serial gives us the deepest look into the history of the Daleks since their creation. We meet their creator, Davros, a brilliant scientist who is the product of his own environment, the biggest advances in science and medicine usually come about in war time, and this really is shown here with the Daleks, they are the result of endless war, and are designed purely for extermination.
The Deadly Assassin: Political intrigue and the biggest insight into the world of the Doctor, I often favour the stories set on Gallifrey, because I like learning about the history of the Time Lords, especially their early days and this along with maybe two or three others from the original run are really the only information we have on the past of the Doctor and his people.
State of Decay: In a show that makes use of history and myth it amazes me that it took so long for the Doctor to encounter Vampires.
The Ark In Space: The story itself wasn’t bad, but really gets me about this story is that the monster is made out of painted bubble wrap.
Join again soon for more on the wonderful worlds of The BBC’s Doctor Who.
This is the fourth in a series of posts relating to the BBC’s long running show Doctor Who.
There is a new series of Doctor Who starting on Saturday. You have no idea how excited I am about this. Doctor Who is my favourite TV show and my absolute number #1 fandom (followed closely by Marvel Comics). Doctor Who is the longest running sci-fi series in the world, with over 800 individual episodes spanning 54 years marking it as the BBC’s longest running drama.
The show focuses on The Doctor, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, who chooses to flee the conformity of Time Lord society in a stolen Time Machine come spaceship (The Tardis) and sets out to see a universe that he has only read about. The Time Lords of Gallifrey are imbued with a unique gift, that when they are approaching death, they are able to regenerate, taking on a new body and personality to match.
The First Doctor
When the series opens we find the Doctor aged in his 600’s an old man still in his first incarnation (portrayed by the redoubtable William Hartnell), on the run from his own people and travelling with his granddaughter Susan, the Doctor is hiding in 1960’s London, where is Granddaughter is enrolled at the local comprehensive, Coal Hill School. It is here where the Tardis (designed to blend with its environment) malfunctions and is stuck as police public call box after landing in the totters lane junkyard. After garnering concern from her teachers, Susan is followed back to the Tardis, where his secret discovered, the Doctor and Susan run again, taking her teachers with them, thus beginning this adventure in space and time. Encountering things such as cave men, moth people, romans, space miners, and Marco Polo, not to mention the villainous Daleks, a cyborg race hell bent on spreading racial purity throughout the universe, the Doctor loses friends, and gains new companions, leaving his granddaughter to start a family in a Dalek destroyed future London, it is when he encounters the Cybermen for the first time, that he absorbs a lethal amount of radiation, but instead of dying he regenerates in the 2nd doctor.
William Harntell stared as the doctor in 133 episodes (29 serialised stories) from November 1963 and October 1966, with a few cameo appearances after the role was taken over by other actors (it is a time travel show after all). This whole era was characterised as Hartnell’s grumpy old man demeanour (in spite of only being in his 50’s at the time), and what marks Hartnell as my favourite Doctor is that he played the role with such a brash, insulting, almost arrogant nature that you want to hate him, until you see that little mischievous glint in his eye, and you realise, that he is playing a time lord (said to arrogance and pomposity personified), but one that would definitely be a bit of a pariah or outcast among his people.
Stand Out Serials
The Unearthly Child: The first serial which sets up the whole adventure of Tardis, Time Lord and Teachers. This sees The Doctor And Susan’s secret discovered, and at the risk of being found by their own people flee into the past and wind up in prehistoric earth and the middle of powerplay over the creation of fire.
The Romans: This story sees the doctor and companions taking a holiday in the ancient roman empire, While the Doctor and new companion Vikki wind up in the court of Nero, with the doctor mistaken for a famous musician. Other companions Ian and Barbera are sold into slavery, with the two parallel stories culminating in the great fire of Rome.
The Time Meddler: This is one of my favourites as it introduces us to the character of the Monk, another renegade of the Doctors race, and its this first glimpse that we get into the doctors past that makes is fascinating, as throughout the series the Doctor is shrouded in mystery, at this point we assumed that the Doctor created the Tardis, but to discover another (with working camouflage) in the hands of someone trying to manipulate time for their own benefit left a great deal of unanswered questions for audiences to ponder.
The Daleks Masterplan: I’ve only actually heard the audio recordings from this serial, as only 3 episodes still exist on film, but it is one of the longest serials and is the fourth to feature the Doctors arch enemies the Daleks, and the second to feature The Monk. This serial is where large scale space opera was conceived, with a complex plot and multitudes of characters, set on earth, set on space, set in the past and the future, I would go as far as to say that without this serial we wouldn’t have things like Star Wars, because it was the first to really go all out.
The Aztecs: This one makes the list because it is the first time that it’s really brought home in the series that you cant change the past. The Aztecs butchered thousands in the name of their religion, and nothing the Doctor’s companions did made one bit of difference to the whole thing, and it sets up one of the key tropes in science fiction, which is that trying to change the past will not work, the universe doesn’t want it to (the best way to avoid alternate reality fiction, is the line used in later series, “The Universe Compensates”).
The Web Planet: This has to have a mention, because I’ve seen it about five times from beginning to end, and I still have no idea what was happening. There are moth people and giant beetles and a lot of prancing about. My initial thoughts about the serial is that the producers must have been smoking something pretty powerful, and then my second thought was that it was the 60’s so my thought was probably right.
Join again soon for more on the wonderful worlds of The BBC’s Doctor Who.
This is the first in a series of posts relating to the BBC’s long running show Doctor Who.