Showing posts with label patrick troughton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label patrick troughton. Show all posts

Monday, 10 April 2023

Twenty Years of a Time Lord

40 years ago, I was at Doctor Who’s famous 20th celebration, held at Longleat House over the Easter bank holiday weekend!

At the time, Longleat House was home to a permanent Doctor Who exhibition, which I’d visited with family in the spring of 1981. The exhibition was a formative Whovian experience encountering the Doctor’s deadliest foes (from Daleks to Cybermen), and I remember a helpful shop assistant letting me choose a silver Palitoy Talking Dalek (I already owned the more common red variant).

1983 would be long remembered!

Not only was it the 20th anniversary of Doctor Who culminating in The Five Doctors special in November, but also the epic conclusion of the original Star Wars trilogy. George Lucas’ space saga was intertwined with my recovery and rehabilitation following a life-changing head injury in 1977.

Back to all things timey-wimey. To celebrate the good Doctor’s birthday, the BBC announced a 2-day event at Longleat House and we ventured up on Easter Monday (without tickets). Upon arrival, it was abundantly clear that the event was massively oversubscribed, the BBC unprepared for its popularity, and a voice on the tannoy forebodingly announced that unless you had a ticket, you would be unable to enter…

Oh, boy!

In stepped my mum to save the day! She spoke to a Royal Welsh Fusilier (wearing a UNIT badge) and, voila, we’re guests and ushered in with VIP access. What follows remains more of a brilliant blur. From shaking hands with a Cyberman to watching Terror of the Autons (with Jon Pertwee and cast) and meeting Peter Davison to a close encounter with a Triffid, I was in geek heaven. Although I missed out on a souvenir guide, I did pick up a copy of The Doctor Who Technical Manual. Years later, I would discover future friends were there, too.

Sadly, we had overlooked bringing a Kodak camera with us (this was an era before iPhones). This didn’t detract too much and I was able to get an official Polaroid snap outside the TARDIS.

In 2013, I ventured with friends to ExCeL London to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. Who knows what may happen for the 60th this year!

What are your memories of the Doctor Who exhibition? Were you at the 20th celebration? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

New Year's Déjà Vu of the Daleks

Happy New Year! Doctor Who is back for an uplifting and quirky New Year's Day special, Eve of the Daleks.

50 years ago, Day of the Daleks began with Jon Pertwee as the titular Time Lord. The story is notable for the return of the Daleks following a five-year hiatus after Patrick Troughton's The Evil of the Daleks - Terry Nation wanted to launch a Dalek spin-off series in America. So, I'll be rewatching Day of the Daleks on BritBox as part of my birthday month celebrations.

Read the official synopsis for Eve of the Daleks:

"New Year’s Eve. Sarah is working - again. Nick is her only customer - again. Same old same old. Except this year, their countdown to midnight will be the strangest and deadliest they’ve ever known. Why is an Executioner Dalek targeting these two people, in this place, on this night? Why are they having to live through the same moments again? Can the Doctor, Yaz and Dan save them and survive into the New Year?"

Eve of the Daleks, the first of three specials in 2022 marking the end of Jodie Whittaker's era, is on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and BBC America. Stay tuned for Nick Smith's review soon.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Lost Doctor Who serials on BritBox

BritBox, the streaming service co-owned by the BBC and commercial broadcaster ITV, continues to be the home of cult sci-fi and fantasy film and television series in the UK.

The platform's exclusive classic Doctor Who collection is about to be further bolstered by two fully-animated stories, starring Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor, this December.

Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones

The eighth incomplete Doctor Who serial to receive full-length animated reconstructions of its missing episodes. The Doctor and his companions arrive at Gatwick Airport and discover strange identity-stealing aliens called Chameleons.

Doctor Who: Fury from the Deep

Animated reconstruction of the missing serial. The Doctor and his companions find themselves at a gas refinery where a dangerous plant is infecting everyone and controlling their minds.

Both serials will be available to stream from 23rd December.

Are you subscribing to BritBox? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Doctor Who Day

"The monsters and the Doctor. It seems you cannot have one without the other." Happy Doctor Who Day! The beloved BBC sci-fi series celebrates its 58th anniversary! What would the First Doctor, William Hartnell, make of that?

My earliest memory of watching Doctor Who is The Sontaran Experiment! Aged 2, seeing Styre melt (before my young eyes) marked a nightmarish childhood encounter with the body horror genre and ignited a lifelong love of adventures in space and time. Also, a brief addiction to Jelly Babies as popularised by the Fourth Doctor, my Doctor, Tom Baker.

As my tweet published in Doctor Who Magazine (DWM) issue 557 suggested. Watching Doctor Who at Saturday teatime soon became a family tradition (as long as I was able to watch with dad!). That said, I was once left alone to watch Genesis of the Daleks! All the while, hiding behind the sofa, terrified the Daleks would fall out the back of the television and into our living room...

Last Sunday's Village of the Angels was a gothic callback to those treasured formative Whovian years.

The BBC has announced details regarding the New Year's Day special:

"The Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and friends will kick-start 2022 with an action-packed spectacular episode set to air on BBC One on New Year’s Day. The festive special will feature guest stars Aisling Bea (This Way Up, Living With Yourself, Quiz), Adjani Salmon (Dreaming Whilst Black, Enterprice) and Pauline McLynn (Father Ted, Shameless).

Sarah (Aisling Bea) owns and runs ELF storage, and Nick (Adjani Salmon) is a customer who visits his unit every year on New Year’s Eve. This year, however, their night turns out to be a little different than planned…

The festive episode is the first of three Doctor Who Specials airing in 2022. The second Special airs in Spring and Jodie’s final feature-length Special (in where the Thirteenth Doctor will regenerate), will transmit in autumn 2022 as part of the BBC’s Centenary celebrations."

The BBC has also announced Doctor Who: The Abominable Snowmen (affiliate link). The classic Second Doctor serial has been fully-animated. The story stars Patrick Troughton, Jack Watling, Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling and features the Doctor's first encounter with the Yeti and the Great Intelligence.

Doctor Who: Flux continues Sunday's on BBC One, BBC iPlayer, BBC America and AMC+. Stay tuned for Nick Smith's, our US-based Whovian, series 13 review soon.

How are you celebrating Doctor Who Day? What are your earliest memories of adventures aboard the TARDIS? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 5 November 2021

The Five Faces of Doctor Who at 40

40 years ago, The Five Faces of Doctor Who began on a chilly November night! Coincidentally, mum and dad bought our first-ever Panasonic VCR, which I promptly set up to record the fabled retrospective season.

This was only a few months after the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), my Doctor, had regenerated into the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison), ruining Saturday teatime forever.


With the 6-part Doctor Who: Flux currently on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and BBC America, Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, looks back to a time before BritBox when my parents spent a small fortune on a VHS recorder and tapes.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Life was different in the early ‘80s. There were no blogs or vlogs. No lamb and mint-flavoured crisps. No Prom Night approbation for sci-fi telly. And worst of all, no official videos of old Doctor Who stories.

Thanks to a battered copy of The Making of Doctor Who and some cherished Target novelisations, I had an inkling of the show’s past. But as far the general public was concerned, Tom Baker was the Doctor. He had been for a record-setting seven years - an eternity in TV terms. His face was on annuals, jigsaw puzzles, comics and toys.

Though it’s hard to fathom now, since the Doctor’s had more incarnations than you could comfortably fit in a phone booth, 40 years ago Tom had made such an indelible mark on the role that he was indelibly knit with the witty time-flitter.

When Peter Davison was announced as the Fifth Doctor, he was best known as another fictional character, Tristan Farnon. A frisky, baby-faced troublemaker, Tristan was my favourite character in All Creatures Great and Small and I presumed Davison would bring the same personality to the TARDIS.

He was heralded as the youngest actor thus far to play the Doctor, strengthening his relatability with young viewers like myself. Yet it did not escape my attention that older, some would say wiser, heads were fixated on Four.

To take away the impending ache of being Bakerless, we needed a reminder of a pre-Tom TARDIS. It came in the form of The Five Faces of Doctor Who, a season of reruns commencing in November 1981. Then-producer John Nathan-Turner (aka JNT) chose a fantastic selection of stories, some obvious, others inspired.

The resulting sample of classic and new Who served as a powerful introduction to the show’s early years, instrumental in making me the fan I am today. It was a televisual mixtape borne of a passion for a program that was still in its teens, looking forward to its 20th anniversary celebrations.

The season opened with An Unearthly Child, a mysterious, atmospheric story that introduced the First Doctor (William Hartnell) and his granddaughter, Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford). The misty black and white opening titles and the eerie theme tune hooked me immediately.

Beyond the introductory episode, there was so much to enjoy in 100,000 BC: the captivating cavemen with their distinct way of seeing the world, brought to vivid life by writer Anthony Coburn; the bleak landscape; and the sense of vulnerability, with the elderly Doctor getting kidnapped, the travellers trapped in a cave of skulls, and the brutal fight between Za and Kal.

More monochrome magic followed with a simpler, cosier, but equally entertaining story, The Krotons. I instantly loved Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor because he had the perfect balance of light-hearted curiosity and concern about the dangerous situations he found himself in. Part One’s cliffhanger, where a serpentine probe waggles at him threateningly, managed to be both tense and comedic. While clunky, the Krotons were succinctly alien, with unusual voices and an iron grip on the Gonds. I’ve had a soft spot for those metal dorks ever since.

Another big chunk of this story’s charm came from its all-time-great TARDIS team. The Doctor was funny and fallible, Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury) was a know-it-all and Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) was a pragmatic foil for them both. Philip Madoc was excellent and scriptwriter Robert Holmes got his foot in the door of the Whoniverse with a traditional story that served as the foundation for his classics to come.

The season burst into colour with The Three Doctors. Two brought the banter as he met his successor; the mystery element at the beginning of the story had the appeal of an ITC adventure story; Time Lord lore was developed and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) took the TARDIS’ transcendental dimensions in his stride. The Doctors, Jo Grant (Katy Manning) and Sergeant Benton (John Levene) all gave endearing performances that made this tale a joy to watch, balanced with the dark tragedy of Stephen Thorne’s sympathetic bully, Omega.

While The Three Doctors captured the ethos of the UNIT family, Carnival of Monsters showed Jon Pertwee’s protagonist going out on an interstellar limb. It began with another mystery with an imaginative resolution, making use of set period pieces the Beeb does so well and space tech stuff too.

Robert Holmes had come a long way since The Krotons, writing effective dialogue for the Third Doctor and Jo, building aliens worlds that were brash on a budget, and introducing us to not one but two of his treasured double acts (Vorg and Shirna, Kalik and Orum). With all that, a villain hoist by his own petard, and Drashigs too, this was a story to cherish.

Logopolis existed in my recent memory and I’d really enjoyed the story first time around, with its inventive imagery. There was the enigmatic Watcher, standing in the distance; the Doctor and the Master shaking hands; the horrific shrinking of Aunt Vanessa and an occupied TARDIS. All this played out in an epic sweep of locations ranging from everyday England to the cerebellar streets of Logopolis and the towering Pharos Project. Best of all, the story hinged on mind-expanding ideas from Christopher Bidmead’s mighty mind.

Logopolis was a jewel in the 18th season’s crown. Anthony Ainsley’s Master was new and fresh, an energetic enemy for the Doctor, before the villain became a pale pantomime phantom of his former self in later years. Tom Baker received a satisfying send-off and we glimpsed the genial new face for the Doctor.

And that was the end - but the moment had been prepared for. Castrovalva would follow soon after, heralding a shiny new era for the show. The Five Faces of Doctor Who held us over, the finest season JNT never produced.

The first four Doctors were re-established with their wit and charm and confidence on display, and I couldn’t wait to see Peter Davison kick-start the character in his intro Escher adventure. He embodied a youthful optimism for the future, not just of the show but of the decade and my life to come. The possibilities were endless. Timeless.

Perhaps the success of The Five Faces of Doctor Who, a sporadic celebration of Who’s past, and recurring references to its history, was part of its downfall. The show would get caught in its own recursive occlusion of chases, escapes and self-referential nods to prior adventures. Nevertheless, in the autumn of 1981, the past was a fantastic prologue to Davison’s neon-logoed, brand new bright-as-cricket-white wanderings.

Would the conceit work today? Absolutely! A similar, lengthier season would encourage new fans to get hooked on classic Doctor Who and it would warm the cockles of veterans like me. With the Sixtieth anniversary approaching, it’s time for The Thirteen Faces of Doctor Who.

Which stories would you choose? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Doctor Who: All Of Time And Space Podcast

I've known Mark Cockram since 2007. Mum had recently passed away and Dad and I were trying to cope in the aftermath of a second life-changing familial trauma.

To that end, we'd looked to take simple steps such as upgrading our ageing televisions in a dawning digital era. So, we ventured into a local Panasonic Store and got chatting with the friendly staff (who would later be instrumental in helping us create a multimedia wall for the residents of mum's former nursing home).

Mark overheard a conversation in which I mentioned Doctor Who and, in a timey-wimey twist worthy of everyone's favourite time traveller, asked if I was the same John Hood on a popular Whovian forum?

Spoiler: I was!

From there, our friendship began and I've always meant to invite Mark to write for this blog. 14 years and 3 coronavirus lockdowns later...

Guest post by Mark Cockram

Let’s begin by setting our space-time coordinates for March 2020.

My name is Mark, I work for a large department store and I was furloughed at the start of the first national coronavirus lockdown in the UK. I’m sure that like many others this was, for me, an unprecedented experience.

Watching the story of the pandemic unfold, I tried my best to hang on to some semblance of normality and like many parents endeavoured to negotiate my new role as a teacher to a sometimes reluctant six-year-old. I was left pondering the uncertainty surrounding any kind of tangible end to the crisis and it made me consider some of the things that I had been putting off over the years.

My passion is pop culture and in particular Doctor Who. Since 2012, I have had a semi-regular podcast called Nerdology UK covering TV, movies, books, theatre and pop culture. I was also a host on the now-defunct Blue Box podcast for Starburst magazine. I had to step away from podcasting for a few years when our world was turned upside down when our baby was diagnosed with a rare brain condition.

One thing I had wanted to do for some time but had been putting off was watching all of Doctor Who from An Unearthly Child right through in broadcast order. It seemed, to me, that if I didn’t do it soon it might never happen, and the occurrence of a global pandemic made this ever more apparent.

So, I decided to just go ahead and do it. I wanted a travelling companion to share the journey with, but who should I ask? My wife enjoys the programme but I don’t think she would appreciate being asked to endure such an undertaking any more than I would enjoy watching a marathon of her favourite musicals.

Iain Martin is someone I had podcasted with before. We share a similar sense of humour and it had always been a fun experience. I sent him a YouTube clip of the teaser for series five with Matt Smith’s Doctor asking “All of time and space Everywhere and anywhere. Every star that ever was. Where do you want to start?” and asked “would you like to be on my new Doctor Who podcast?” and a straightforward “yes” sealed the deal.

Iain suggested that “All Of Time And Space” would be a good name for the podcast, which was much better than any of the ideas that I had been kicking around in the weeks that I had spent setting up the podcast feed and social media accounts.

The show launched in July 2020 and it’s been tremendous fun to make. There’s a nice dynamic between us as I’ve seen it all (not necessarily in the right order) and Iain had only seen a handful of the early stories from the 1960s. We have been really lucky with the calibre of the guests who have agreed to join us as we journey through the Doctor’s televised adventures. We have welcomed a Dalek operator and someone responsible for helping return one of the missing episodes among our esteemed guests.

At the time of writing, we are about to finish recording season two. And this marks a distinct watershed moment in our journey. We have experienced a handful of the stories that are missing from the BBC’s archive, but season three is where the missing episodes begin to outnumber the existing ones, which will make for a challenging experience.

The show has gradually evolved as we have found our “groove”. I was keen to have some kind of context to what was going on in the world when the programmes were first shown, and Iain took that idea and ran with it deciding to introduce a quiz in season one, which has morphed into something we’re calling “The Mind Probe” for season two.

I was also very keen to generate a sense of community between us and the listeners, which is something I really enjoy when listening to podcasts myself, and it feels great to have comments and correspondence from people who are listening in from all over the world. To open up the avenues for discussion we have a presence on Twitter and Facebook as well as a dedicated web page where you can leave audio feedback if you prefer. We even have an old fashioned email address for those listeners who really want to make themselves heard and Twitter’s 280 character limit just isn’t going to cut it.

So, we’re heading into season three, and we’re edging closer to the end of William Hartnell’s tenure, and it’s been a rewarding experience discovering new favourite stories and in some cases reappraising our opinions of others after seeing them within the context of the continuing narrative.

And for those of you that love the modern series and are curious but have yet to dip your toes into the mysterious waters of the classic series, it has never been easier to watch along with us. Practically every story that exists is available on DVD, but if the thought of lining your shelves with these wonderful stories and their oh-so-shiny “value-added material” is a bridge too far then BritBox has them available to stream, including an exclusive reconstruction of The Wheel In Space from Patrick Troughton’s first full season in the lead role.

Additionally, the stories that sadly no longer exist in their original form in the BBC archive are able to be experienced as a result of the dedication of fans who recorded the audio when the stories were first broadcast, and by the creativity of fans in more recent times who have taken the audio and combined it with off-air still photographs and in some cases animation in order to help bring these stories to life in the form of reconstructions.

Before I head back into the vortex, I would like to thank John for letting me ramble on and if you have been inspired to join us on our journey the long way around, you can find All Of Time And Space on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and all the usual podcatchers.

Happy times and places,


Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Cult classics on BritBox

With autumn fast approaching in the northern hemisphere, BritBox, a joint venture between the BBC and commercial broadcaster ITV, has added a collection of cult sci-fi and fantasy series to lure geeks (myself included) to the streaming service since my initial review earlier this year.

Thunderbirds, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Prisoner, Sapphire & Steel, Star Cops and Space: 1999 are among the highlights along with every available episode of classic Doctor Who - the reason I resubscribed during lockdown. All the cult series Nick Smith, our resident US-based stellar scribe, and me watched at the Vintage Video club where we first met as undergraduates at Bournemouth University.

Whereas Star Cops has dated horribly, Space: 1999 has never looked better and I was instantly transported back to the late seventies when I watched reruns, on ITV, as my Dinky Toys Eagle battled Kenner die-cast TIE Fighters and a Star Destroyer alongside the Millennium Falcon and Luke Skywalker's X-wing.

Dragon's Domain, with guest star Michael Sheard who appeared in classic Doctor Who serial Pyramids of Mars and played the ill-fated Admiral Ozzel in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, was the stuff of childhood nightmares and is a pre-Alien haunted house in space (Alien reused sound effects from Space: 1999).

Sapphire & Steel, played by Joanna Lumley and David McCallum respectively, remains a creepy, claustrophobic paranormal thriller following the enigmatic titular time travellers as they investigate anomalies. Inspiring the overarching 'cracks in time' plot for Matt Smith's Doctor Who decades later.

The Box of Delights, starring Patrick Troughton (Doctor Who), is now streaming too, but I'd suggest waiting until November to savour that festive timey-wimey tale. Hopefully, many more series will be added to BritBox's burgeoning cult collection including The Children of Green Knowe, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Day of the Triffids, The Tomorrow People, Chocky and Blake's 7.

These cult series will be discovered by a new generation of fans. However, as John Rivers points out in comments, BritBox needs to expand the availability of its app. This is 2020.

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Doctor Who immersive experience coming to London

Today would have been my late mum's 79th birthday and the mood has been bittersweet. However, Classic FM, one of mum's favourite radio stations, played Adventures on Earth (From E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) in a moment of perfect synchronicity. Yes, it opened the emotional flood gates, but in the best way possible. My mood was further buoyed by the following timey-wimey news concerning our favourite Time Lord.

An immersive Doctor Who experience from the team behind long-running immersive show The Great Gatsby, delayed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, has been confirmed to premiere in London in February 2021. Featuring Daleks, Cybermen and Time Lords, the unique story arc will have a tie-in with the multimedia event Time Lord Victorious.

The official plot synopsis for the event reads, “1940 – it’s the height of the Blitz. A weapon of unknown origin destroys a small corner of Mayfair, and simultaneously opens up a rift in space and time.

“For decades, UNIT has fought to protect the people of Earth from the dangers it poses, but they’ve been beaten back as the fracture multiplies out of control.

“Earth as we know it is at stake – now is the time for you to step up and be the hero. Travelling to impossible places, confronting menacing monsters and ancient aliens along the way, it’s a journey across space and time to save our race, and our beautiful planet.”

Doctor Who: Time Fracture is directed by Tom Maller and written by Daniel Dingsdale.

Dingsdale said: "Drawing from the rich legacy of Doctor Who, which spans over half a century, we are creating an adventure that will entertain both fans that have immersed themselves in the show’s universe for years, and audience members who will walk in from the street having never seen an episode. It’s going to be an absolute blast."

Louis Hartshorn, joint chief executive of Immersive Everywhere, said: "We are delighted to be partnering with BBC Studios to bring the incredible universe of Doctor Who to life in a way that only immersive theatre can.

"We can’t wait for audiences to step into the world of The Doctor, and find themselves closer to the action than ever before, in this expansive and ambitious new show.

"Based on everything we know now, we are confident that Doctor Who: Time Fracture will be able to go ahead as planned in early 2021 and will be taking all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our audiences and full creative team."

Doctor Who: Time Fracture will hopefully be as inclusive as the wonderful Doctor Who Experience, which I visited with friends, at London's Olympia, in 2011. Tickets go on general sale from Thursday 20th August and are expected to be in high demand. An Early Bird UNIT bundle is available for £20 and includes an exclusive Operation Time Fracture premium cotton t-shirt, a lapel pin badge and an A2 poster print featuring production artwork.

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones on BBC America

Classic Doctor Who serial The Faceless Ones, starring Patrick Troughton as the titular character and sees the departure of TARDIS companions Ben (Michael Craze) and Polly (Anneke Wills), will be shown on BBC America this October.

BBC Studios builds on its previous success with Troughton's The Power of the Daleks and The Macra Terror to restore another lost serial, from the BBC's infamous purge of master tapes, using animation. This technique is used in the upcoming Fury from the Deep (affiliate link) on Blu-ray and DVD this September.

I read the Target novelisation, written by the late, great, Terrance Dicks, in middle school and have yet to see The Faceless Ones (read Andrew Lewin's review here). The release coincided with the coronavirus lockdown, War of the Worlds and Normal People.

The Faceless Ones premieres Wednesday, 7th October on BBC America. Classic Doctor Who is streaming on BritBox and every season since 2005 is streaming exclusively on HBO Max.

Monday, 3 August 2020

Doctor Who: Fury from the Deep this September

Following the success of The Power of the Daleks, The Faceless Ones, Shada and The Macra Terror, another classic lost Doctor Who serial gets the animated treatment from BBC Studios this September.

Fury from the Deep is told across six episodes and stars Patrick Troughton as the Doctor, Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon and Deborah Watling as Victoria Waterfield, in her last televised adventure.

The storyline concerns a colony of sentient, parasitic seaweed, last seen in the eighteenth century, returning to attack a number of gas instillations in the North Sea in an attempt to take over humanity.

The three-disc release gives fans the opportunity to enjoy Fury from the Deep in high definition, either in full colour or in black & white. The release will include the surviving clips from the original 1968 production as well.

The six new animated episodes are being made in full colour and high definition and will include the following exclusive special features:

Audio commentaries
The Cruel Sea – Surviving Fury from the Deep
Original surviving footage
Behind The Scenes 8mm footage
Animating Fury from the Deep
Archive interviews with Peter Day and Victor Pemberton
Teaser Trailer
Photo Gallery
The Slide Audio Drama
PDF scripts

Doctor Who: Fury from the Deep, coming 14th September, is available as DVD, Blu-ray, Steelbook and digital download. You can pre-order now from Amazon (affiliate link) and Zavvi (referral link).

Saturday, 25 January 2020

The Doctor and the BritBox of delights

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed Doctor Who on BritBox. Our resident US roving reporter, Nick Smith, friend and fellow Whovian, has had more time (pun intended) to explore.

Here are Nick's thoughts along with an anecdote regarding how his adventures aboard the TARDIS began (he never cared to mention it during classic Doctor Who screenings on VHS at university).

Guest post by Nick Smith

Everyone knows the best babysitter isn’t Mary Poppins or Nanny McPhee. It’s the TV set! That steadfast screen can show us the world, how to behave and how not to. It can show us how to get to Sesame Street. It can show us the past and possible futures, human nature and Mother Nature.

In September 1980, I had a human babysitter called Mrs. Baggs. Ten or more kids at a time, nothing fancy, just her living room to play in and a drink of water if we got thirsty. Mrs. Baggs knew how magical TV was to simple kids who wouldn’t have known what to do with a Gameboy if it bit them. Those gadgets wouldn’t be around for almost a decade, so at the age of eight, I was happy playing with a toy steering wheel. I was a mini-Mansell oblivious to my surroundings. Then Mrs. Baggs said a few words that pricked my attention above the roar of my World Championship Racing engine.

"Did you see Doctor Who the other night?", Mrs. Baggs asked her charges in her piratical Bristolian accent. "He got ‘is arms and legs pulled off. It was brilliant!"

Although I’d been casually watching the Doctor since I was a toddler, I had not seen the offending episode. I was fascinated by the lurid picture painted by my sitter, the way her eyes got Tom Baker-wide when she described the cliffhanger from The Leisure Hive. I had to find out what happened next!

From then on, I was an avid viewer. While the episode endings did not always have me clamouring for more, they got everyone talking about how the Doctor would escape his latest predicament. The school playground was rife with conjecture about what would happen next. Like Saturday matinee serials beforehand, Doctor Who had a life outside its 25-minute airtime, a life that transcended TV’s two dimensions thanks to our vivid imaginations.

Later, convention screenings, bootleg videos and VHS/DVD releases meant we could watch stories any time we wanted! UK Gold ran repeats for a staggering 15 years, from 1992 to 2007. BBC2 showed the occasional rerun as well. Although we didn’t always have to wait a week between episodes, there was a sense of chronology. We watched a story through from beginning to end.

Now, with the advent of BritBox, that’s starting to change. The online streaming collection of British TV shows from the BBC and ITV provides an a la carte menu of viewing. Want to watch your own Cyberman saga or check out an Auton oeuvre? Go ahead, binge away.

Other services such as Twitch (with the occasional marathon) and Pluto TV, which has a Doctor Who Classics subchannel, provide a different way of viewing. They don’t give you a choice of what to stream but they do show whole stories. Pluto’s choice of stories can be arbitrary, although it’s good to see that they show some ‘60s tales casting a black and white light on Tom Baker Street. Some of the programming is strategic – want to watch Tomb of the Cybermen followed by Earthshock? Pluto’s your planet. But because the shows can’t be rewound, you might find yourself catching parts 2-4 of Power of Kroll. The result is more of a pick ‘n’ mix than the banquet of BritBox.

There are pros to this brave new world of streaming sci-fi. It’s on all the time and you can dip in whenever you want. The major downside: commercials, popping up uninvited on Twitch and Pluto. Yuck. Pacing in these shows is very important, and even 25 minutes stretched to half an hour makes a difference.

More Who is never a bad thing. Personally, I’m very glad there’s enough interest in my favourite TV show to devote a 24/7 channel to it. And if streaming draws new fans, subsequently increasing the show’s longevity, then that is great too. The new series still has a cliffhanger ending or two up its masterful sleeve, and I can handle missing episode one of Meglos. A show about time travel doesn’t always have to start its stories at the beginning.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Doctor Who on BritBox is a timey-wimey treasure trove

Classic Doctor Who materialised on BritBox on Boxing Day and quickly became the most viewed show on the newly launched streaming service from the BBC and commercial broadcaster ITV.

Reemah Sakaan, Group Director ITV SVOD, commented:

"BritBox becoming the first complete digital home of Doctor Who Classic creates a special opportunity for fans and streamers across the UK. We are looking forward to expanding the collection even further by working with the show creators to lovingly restore lost and previously unavailable episodes in the months to come and offering a truly exclusive experience."

Sally de St Croix, Franchise Director for Doctor Who at BBC Studios added:

“It’s thrilling to partner with BritBox and see all this amazing Doctor Who Classic content congregate in one place where subscribers can stream to their hearts’ content – some experiencing the show for the first time whilst others will simply be enjoying it all over again.”

I'd already availed myself of a free 1-month trial, during the public beta, but reached out to customer service who very kindly arranged another free month so I could explore the 627 episodes of Doctor Who post-Christmas. This would more than tide me over whilst waiting for series 12, starring Jodie Whittaker as the titular time lord, to begin on New Year's Day.

BritBox hasn't asked me to review the service nor promote it in any way. However, I wanted to in gratitude for letting me watch classic serials - many of which I've never gotten around to seeing on VHS, DVD or Netflix - and to encourage fellow fans (old and new) to trial the new streaming service for free, themselves. The Wheel in Space is a tantalising exclusive from the Patrick Troughton era featuring my favourite villains. The Cybermen.

Like Disney+, there were launch day issues for some fans due to overwhelming demand. Personally, I was able to stream episodes of Doctor Who on my iPad Pro and Apple TV without any issues, however, a few friends weren't so lucky and had to wait a day or two for things to settle down.

BritBox has curated serials so that newer fans can savour the very best of William Hartnell to Paul McGann without being overwhelmed. As a lifelong fan, since Tom Baker's era, I dived straight into The Android Invasion and was reminded of how traumatic this serial was for a then 3-year-old me. I was, literally, terrified that the adults in my life would be replaced by Kraal androids and there'd be no way of knowing until it was too late...

During the festive season, dad and I rewatched The Seeds of Doom - remembering how scary this serial was from the fabled gothic era. Due to the increasingly nightmarish nature of the show, I think Doctor Who was banned from the Hood household as I have no recollection of seeing season 14, coming to Blu-ray (affiliate link) this April, until an omnibus repeat of The Robots of Death! I'd missed the departure of Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and was nonplussed to discover Leela (Louise Jameson) had replaced my first and favourite companion.

Subsequently, it's been mostly effortless switching between incarnations of the Doctor from the comfort of my sofa - no longer hiding behind it as in the mid-to-late seventies. I did notice The Masque of Mandragora is formatted incorrectly (BritBox assures me this will be fixed). The art direction is woefully inconsistent: varying from lush to generic artwork, which is a missed opportunity given the copious amount of material available. It would be nice to see more devices supported in the future including PS4, Xbox One and my Samsung smart TV from 2015.

Overall, the experience of watching Doctor Who on BritBox has been brilliant and will only get better. Back to the politically-relevant Inferno this winter.

Are you going to keep subscribing to BritBox after the free trial? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Classic Doctor Who materialises Boxing Day on BritBox

Whilst Star Wars fans (myself included) wait for the launch of Disney+ with The Mandalorian in March 2020. There's the exciting prospect of streaming every surviving episode of classic Doctor Who this Christmas on BritBox!

BritBox is a joint venture between the BBC and commercial broadcaster ITV, which launched in the US in 2017. The subscription service features an extensive catalogue of past and present television and film series for £5.99 per month.

Alas, there is currently a dearth of British-made genre material on BritBox in the UK. For example, Sapphire & Steel and Blake's 7 are missing, presumably for licensing reasons. However, it could become a go-to destination for Doctor Who fans (myself included) when the vintage back catalogue (1963 - 1989) arrives on Boxing Day.

BritBox is entering an increasingly fragmented streaming space with Apple and Disney the latest entrants to compete with Netflix, Amazon Prime and NOW TV. The app is available for selected Samsung smart TVs, Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Android phones and tablets, Mac and PC.

Alas, I'm in the midst of a free 1-month trial. So, urge fellow Whovians to wait until Christmas before starting their subscription. You're welcome.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

B&M's 2019 Doctor Who sets from Character Options

One of my earliest memories, growing up in the seventies, was being gifted Doctor Who action figures from Denys Fisher (in collaboration with Mego: best known for Micronauts, "World's Greatest Super Heroes" and Star Trek lines) and Palitoy. Alas, neither UK-based toy companies released a Sontaran or, fourth Doctor companion, Harry Sullivan.

Fast forward forty years or so and Character Options has announced its official 2019 Doctor Who sets (exclusively available from B&M).

"Al Dewar presents the 2019 line of Doctor Who collectable figures and sets from Character Options."

The latest collection is, I'm sure you'll agree, a home run and, best of all, there's a new Sontaran set including Harry Sullivan! This is especially poignant (for me) as The Sontaran Experiment is my earliest memory of watching Doctor Who. Here's hoping my local B&M store has these in stock later in the summer.

If by any chance someone from Character Options reads this, it would be a privilege for this lifelong Whovian to review the Sontarans set.

Which B&M Doctor Who sets are you looking forward to most and would like to see in the future? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Richard E. Grant teases his role in Star Wars

Since Richard E. Grant was cast in Star Wars: Episode IX, fans have speculated he may be playing Grand Admiral Thrawn in director JJ Abrams' conclusion to the Skywalker saga this December. However, the Oscar-nominated actor quickly dispelled that rumour.

“I’m not playing the Star Wars character you just mentioned,” Grant previously shared with the Radio Times. “I’m not allowed to tell you anything. Otherwise I would be fired."

Despite the need for secrecy surrounding Episode IX, Grant assures fellow fans (myself included) it'll be more than worth it and I agree.

“Oh, it’s definitely worth it,” the actor shared. “If you’re a Star Wars fan, and I am, then knowing what’s coming in this is quite something. I absolutely understand why they’re so secretive about it, because it’s very exciting.”

Grant spoke of the security surrounding the script for Episode IX earlier this month.

“Yes, I am in the last Star Wars. I have no idea [if I’ll be recognizable] because I’ve not even been allowed to tell my family what the name of my character is," Grant shared with The Graham Norton Show. “If I told you I would get fired. We’re not even allowed to take the script home. There is a lot of security.”

Grant is fondly remembered by Doctor Who fans (myself included) as the corporeal form of the Great Intelligence. A disembodied alien, originally controlling the Yeti during Patrick Troughton's era, that sought to erase the Doctor, from all of time, during Matt Smith's tenure as the titular character. Star Wars reunites the actors with Smith purportedly playing a young Palpatine in a flashback.

Whilst we wait for an official title and teaser trailer for Star Wars: Episode IX. Who do you think Richard E. Grant is playing? A First Order Officer or a droid? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

A musical Box of Delights

Daren Thomas, friend and fellow Whovian with whom I attended the Doctor Who Experience (DWE), follows up his Christmas television post from 2012 with a review of the newly announced Silva Screen soundtrack release for The Box of Delights. Let's hope it's not so long next time, eh? Time and tide and buttered eggs wait for no man...

Guest post by Daren Thomas

Christmas is jammed full with its little traditions that permeate so many areas of our lives and go far beyond the putting up of trees, decorations or exchanging of gifts. It’s not all about guzzling down copious amounts of alcohol, mince pies or sprouts either (okay, well, maybe it is). But Christmas can also be a time for reflection, too. We are often looking back to the magical happy holidays of the past, especially when it comes to the television, films and music we consume…. Suddenly, regular Satellite channels offer Christmas themed programming 24-7. Whilst, the likes of Netflix cram a yuletide playlist full of treats that we all love to see time and time again, as the holidays draw near. Whether it’s an ‘Only Fools’, ‘Morecambe and Wise’, ‘Elf’ or ‘Home Alone’, we all have our favourites, that can often hark back to our childhood.

One programme is often talked about on social media, sometimes even as early as November! This is when many begin their yearly episodic watch of a classic BBC children’s six-part series from the mid-1980s. The Box of Delights is an adaptation of the book by the once Poet Laureate, John Masefield and it is a charming children’s fantasy adventure positively brimming with an old school Christmas feel from start to finish.

Our plucky young hero Kay Harker (Devin Stanfield) returns home for the holidays. En route meets an old Punch and Judy man, Cole Hawlings, played by ex-Doctor Who Patrick Troughton. Hawlings entrusts Kay with his magical box of delights, as he tries to keep it from the clutches of the evil Abner Brown (played with theatrical aplomb and relish by Sir Robert Stephens). Kay’s fantastical adventures with the mystical box is an utter joy.

The music used in The Box of Delights underpins the story perfectly, with its atmospheric Christmas themed soundtrack, combining sounds which echo so many other magical children’s dramas of the past. This is because the music is provided by none other than Roger Limb of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. His work as an electronic musician has included stories for Doctor Who in the 1980s, as well as many other children’s dramas, like ‘The December Rose’, ‘Aliens In The Family’ and the stories found in the children’s programme ‘Look And Read’, as part of the Schools and Colleges strand.

This soundtrack has now finally been made available to buy via Silva Screen records, under the guiding hand of fellow Radiophonic composer Mark Ayres, who has remastered it for this wonderful release. The 50-track CD also contains Richard Harvey’s ‘Christmas Day In The Morning’ (a synthesised re-working of ‘I Saw Three Ships’). This music accompanied the dancing children at a special Christmas party hosted by the Bishop of Tatchester within the story.

The collection also contains an eight-minute segment of Victor Hely-Hutchinson’s ‘Carol Symphony’, performed by the Pro-Arte Orchestra. Its version of ‘The First Nowell’ is used as the theme tune and has become somewhat synonymous with The Box of Delights, being first used for its earlier radio adaptations too. The piece was issued as a theme tune by BBC Records on vinyl in 1984, but here the actual televised opening and closing themes are presented for the very first time. The original piece by the Pro-Arte Orchestra is finished with additional electronic notes, which eases us into the soundtrack for the story.

This CD has many highlights and from ‘The Time That Likings Are Made’ onwards, we are wistfully transported into the fantasy of the story.

Beautiful harp-like sounds not only rekindle the identifiable motifs from the theme tune continually throughout, but they also underpin the music in pieces like ‘A Mountain In Switzerland’, which accompanies Cole Hawlings enchanted departure from Kay’s house with the ingenious use of a painting on the wall. They also appear in the early parts of the track ‘King Arthur's Camp’. This piece nicely builds using medieval like percussion, which highlights Kay’s urgent attempts to escape the wolves and his journey back in time, where he fights them off with the use of a broadsword.

The piece ‘The Box Of Delights’ combines atmospheric electronic soundscapes which provide a mystical feel to the magic used by Hawlings. The music swirls as Kay whooshes into the night sky, escaping the danger of the wolves by using the box to go swift.

The more traditional brass sounds in ‘Towards Dawn’ herald the start of a new day as Kay and Peter wade through waist-high snow, where they witness Cole’s kidnap by Abner’s evil henchmen. Then, the later ‘Snowman’ provides a small fun lighter respite, as the children build a snowman before it then descends into a snowball fight.

‘Herne The Hunter’ takes us on Kay’s journey into the Box itself and his meeting with this mythical character. Horns and the drumming of hooves sound as the two become animated Stags in the wood, whilst a more uplifting electronic tune accompanies their second change into flying ducks. Finally, the ambient and echoing electronic water sounds follow them as they become fish in the river, whilst all the time being pursued by the wolves.

The upbeat jaunty synths contained in ‘Go Swift’, ‘In The Darkest Cellars Underneath’ and ‘The Spider In The Web’ have a familiar similarity to some of Roger’s work on the early part of the Peter Davison era of Doctor Who. Whilst the darker edged themes found in pieces like ‘Dreams’ and ‘Sweet Dreams’ may remind many of the fifth Doctor’s swan song and the sixth Doctor’s battle with Daleks in the creepy crypts of Necros.

Kay’s trip back into the past once again beautifully blends the more orchestrated feel with an ethereal almost Jean Michel-Jarre like synths, as Kay is magically pushed along the animated sea to the island to find Arnold of Todi.

‘Under My Hand’ and ‘Slave Of The Night’ both offer yet more unnerving synthesised atmospherics to eerie animated creatures of the night, as Abner’s plan is put into play and the climax of the story is fast approaching. Things are then brought to a close as we go full circle with ‘Home For The Holidays’.

For those interested in soundtracks, especially fans of electronic and radiophonic work will find lots here to enjoy. Similarly, the music has now, certainly for me, become as iconic as the adaptation itself. It simply is Christmas and it is both beautiful, very characterful and brimming with those little yuletide moments that send shivers down your spine. The CD is released on the 14th of December and is available to pre-order at all normal sites, as well as directly from Silva Screen. Go take this literal musical box of delights home with you this Christmas.

You can pre-order The Box of Delights OST from (affiliate link).

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Jodie Whittaker's Doctor Who isn't afraid of the dark

Jodie Whittaker's first full episode as the titular Time Lord, Doctor Who, saw the BBC show's highest ratings in 12 years, with a peak of 8.52 million viewers, and rave reviews from critics and fans. Such was my unbridled enthusiasm, I took to social media the moment the episode ended:

"Well, Jodie and cohorts smashed it! Life-affirming, not afraid of the dark and great to see a companion with a disability, which resonated."

The Woman Who Fell to Earth fell (pun intended) just short of Matt Smith's The Eleventh Hour as the best new era intro of the current run. The villain was more DCTV and I kept waiting for The CW's Supergirl to sweep in and save the day. That said, there were times when Whittaker's eclipsed everything before it and paid homage to a profoundly poignant scene from Patrick Troughton's classic serial The Tomb of the Cybermen in the wake of a death. Showrunner Chris Chibnall has revitalised the series, but not at the expense of its 55-year heritage.

Taking the Short View's Andrew Lewin takes a look at The Woman Who Fell to Earth. There are very mild spoilers, so consider yourself forewarned.

What did you think of Ms Whittaker as Doctor Who? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Watch classic Doctor Who on Twitch

Doctor Who fans around the world will be able to watch over 500 classic episodes across 26 seasons for free on TwitchPresents from 29th May until 23rd July.

Nick Coulter, Director of Digital Sales and Business Development at BBC Studios says:

"We are constantly looking at ways to reach new audiences and make it easier for fans to engage with our most popular shows. Doctor Who, in particular, has a great tradition of pioneering new technologies, from early VHS all the way through to the new digital services of today. Twitch is another great example of this, as a brilliant service with over 15 million active daily users, we are thrilled to be able to offer them the chance to indulge in the Classic Doctor Who series and celebrate its amazing 54 year legacy of excitement and innovation."

Jane Weedon, Director of Business Development at Twitch said:

“Doctor Who and its clever take on sci-fi exemplifies the type of adjacent content to gaming that has resonated with the Twitch community. By presenting this iconic BBC show in a new interactive format, it is a fun new way to bridge several generations of Doctor Who fans, while building a new generation of them."

For Doctor Who fans in the US, UK and Canada, Twitch is hosting a giveaway every week during the event, including a grand prize trip to London Comic Con in late 2018.

This is an excellent way to celebrate Doctor Who's past and look forward to the future with Jodie Whittaker.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Jenna Coleman returns to Doctor Who this Christmas

Series 10 of Doctor Who ended last Saturday with, arguably, the best season finale in years. The Doctor Falls is an emotional escapade, directed with cinematic flair by Rachel Talalay, witnessing peak Team TARDIS and culminating in a mythological encounter between the Twelfth and First Doctors. A cliffhanger ending comparable to Star Wars: The Force Awakens for this lifelong fan of both franchises.

David Bradley (Harry Potter) played William Hartnell to critical acclaim in 50th anniversary drama documentary An Adventure in Space and Time. This time (pun intended) Bradley is the First Doctor in the upcoming Christmas special seemingly set in the South Pole during the first Cyberman invasion serial The Tenth Planet. A story best remembered for William Hartnell's regeneration into Patrick Troughton. Very, very meta.

Last May I reported there was a rumour suggesting Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald) was returning to Doctor Who for Peter Capaldi's departure this Christmas. A source has now told the Mirror: “Jenna Coleman has agreed to film something new as Clara.

“It’s become a tradition now for the companions to reappear as the Doctor regenerates and Jenna isn’t letting the side down.

“It’ll help to give Peter the send-off he deserves after three years.”

As already stated, this isn't the first time a companion has returned for a regeneration story. Karen Gillan reprised the role of Amy Pond in Matt Smith's swansong The Time of the Doctor. It's worth noting Clara appeared alongside companions and foes in a callback to Tom Baker's last story. Logopolis. Presumably, the Doctor's memory block has been lifted?

So, the Impossible Girl may return for a festive farewell. In the meantime, I'd like to wish my American readers a happy Fourth of July.

Friday, 14 October 2016

The Power of the Daleks to conquer cinemas in the US

US-based Doctor Who fans are in for a cinematic treat when the Doctor and the Daleks return to the big screen in lost classic The Power of the Daleks this November.

The Power of the Daleks is one of the most celebrated Doctor Who adventures, and yet no complete film recordings are known to have survived. The master negatives were destroyed in an archive purge in 1974. This brand-new animation, being released 50 years after its only UK broadcast, is based on the program’s original audio recordings, surviving photographs, and film clips. The six-part adventure features the regeneration – or as it was then called “renewal” – of First Doctor, William Hartnell, into Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, and follows the Time Lord and his companions Polly (Anneke Wills) and Ben (Michael Craze) as they do battle with the Daleks on the planet Vulcan.

“Ahead of the premiere on BBC America we wanted to give fans a chance to watch this unique content on the big screen. It is a rare treat to be able to bring the lost episode, Power of the Daleks, to life using modern animation techniques. Doctor Who cinema events have been incredibly successful, and this is extraordinary opportunity to allow a new generation of fans the opportunity to experience this classic adventure for the first time,” said Soumya Sriraman, EVP, Franchise and Digital Enterprise, BBC Worldwide North America.

“We’re pleased to continue our long-standing and successful partnership with BBC America to bring more fantastic Doctor Who content to the big screen,” said Fathom Events Vice President of Programming Kymberli Frueh. “The Whovians are always one of our biggest and most passionate group of fans at the cinemas.”

Tickets for The Power of the Daleks can be booked here. UK fans, without tickets to a BFI screening, will have to make do with the DVD and digital download for now.