Showing posts with label william hartnell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label william hartnell. Show all posts

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Celestial Toymaker returns to Doctor Who?

Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) has joined the cast of Doctor Who for the 60th anniversary in 2023.

A photo of the Emmy and Tony award-winning actor was shared on social media, and many fans (myself included) were reminded of the Celestial Toymaker from William Hartnell's era. The titular villain was played by Michael Gough (Batman) and pitted his wits against the First Doctor.

Russell T Davies, Showrunner said “It’s my huge honour to open our studio doors for the mighty Neil Patrick Harris… but who, why, what is he playing? You’ll just have to wait. But I promise you, the stuff we’re shooting now is off the scale. Doctor beware!”

Harris has previously worked with Davis on It's A Sin for Channel 4.

David Tennant (Tenth Doctor) and Catherine Tate (Donna Noble) are returning to Doctor Who, which is currently filming in Cardiff, with Ncuti Gatwa as the next Doctor after Jodie Whittaker leaves the long-running sci-fi series in the autumn. The upcoming new era is a co-production with Sony's Bad Wolf (His Dark Materials).

Who do you think Neil Patrick Harris is playing? The Celestial Toymaker or someone else? 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,


Thursday, 3 December 2020


Ahead of the Doctor Who holiday special, Revolution of the Daleks, Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, has been checking out the latest spin-off series streaming on YouTube.

Daleks! Tell on...

Guest post by Nick Smith

It’s not easy being mean. Just ask the Daleks, who sucker-punched their way into pop culture almost six decades ago, thrilling and chilling readers and audiences ever since.

My first encounter with the Skaro squad came with Genesis of the Daleks back in the mid-seventies. But it was their search for Davros in 1979’s Destiny of the Daleks that really captured my imagination. I didn’t care that they were a bit tatty, or that Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor made fun of them. I found them fearsome, fascinating and most important of all, easy to imitate in the school playground. The bullies of the small screen took my mind off the real-life bullies I couldn’t exterminate [you had me at exterminate - Ed].

A few years later I got hooked on a periodical called Doctor Who Monthly (DWM). One of the strips I loved to read was a reprint of Dalek adventures first published in TV Century 21 magazine from the sixties. Ron Turner’s art was packed with eye-catching design and colour, the supporting characters were memorable, and the Daleks’ devious plans were a big draw too.

Since then, I have been drawn to any little reference to those comic strips, whether in the Dalekmania documentary or in the hovering Dalek hordes of Bad Wolf. Imagine my delight when BBC’s new five-part animated series Daleks! delivered a golden emperor, hoverbouts, galactic machinations and conniving robots, all Terry Nation and David Whitaker-spawned staples retooled for 2020. Furthermore, this was new Who material, the first official on-screen spin-off since 2016’s Class [I didn't get beyond the pilot with Twelve - Ed].

Storywise, my expectations were low. This was a show for kids, surely; at just over ten minutes, the episodes didn’t have room for deep themes or grand character arcs. I was pleasantly surprised.

The Daleks in this show are fallible, backstabbing, on the run from a powerful space entity but still as devious as ever. The brass-bumped emperor is pompous and the scarred old strategist is loyal. Along with the entity, they face stubborn librarians, reprogramed rivals and (finally, after 55 years) the Mechanoids. I‘ve always had a soft spot for these big bots from the First Doctor story The Chase, with their beautiful architecture and their high-pitched voices, speaking a mix of code and broken English. It’s a delight to see them back in action.

Although the episodes are brief, there’s enough meat in them to tell a solid story, develop the main Dalek characters and squeeze in a twist or two. These Daleks aren’t as menacing as they appear in Doctor Who but their threat is in their numbers – we see their armada in full force – and in their Machiavellian antics.

The animation is uneven; while most of the spacecraft and alien cities are highly detailed, the explosions and robots are highly simplified and unrealistic [should've used the Unreal Engine - Ed]. Nevertheless, the faceless Daleks, obviously easier to animate than humans, are imbued with life and momentum, as are the slick ‘camera’ moves.

Daleks! provides a great opportunity for a new audience to familiarize themselves with Doctor Who’s main menace, and for die-hard fans to get a fix before the New Year’s Revolution. I dearly hope that this show leads to more seasons and more spin-offs. Anyone for Saturday Morning Cybermen? [an excellent suggestion - Ed]

Watch Daleks! for free on YouTube and let us know what you think in the comments below!

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.

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, 2 October 2019

Mission to the Unknown recreated 54 years later

Whilst fans wait for news on the next season of Doctor Who. Mission to the Unknown, a classic standalone episode unique for not featuring William Hartnell as the titular Time Lord, has been brilliantly remade by students at the University of Central Lancaster with Nicholas Briggs performing the voices of the Daleks. This was a passion project of Andrew Ireland, friend and fellow Bournemouth University alumni.

Luke Spillane, Digital Publishing Manager for Doctor Who at BBC Studios, said: “It is such a fantastic recreation, made lovingly with real craft and expertise by everyone at the University of Central Lancashire.

“I hope audiences around the world can imagine that it’s tea time on the 9th October 1965 as they rather excitingly watch a black and white episode of Doctor Who premiere on their television sets, mobile phones and tablets.”

Andrew Ireland, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Digital and Creative Industries at the University of Central Lancashire, added: “It is such a loss to our cultural heritage that so many episodes of 1960s Doctor Who are missing from the BBC archives.

“This project presented us with an exciting opportunity to address that, to explore a new way of bringing these missing slices of TV history to life, and in the process, help students learn their craft by comparing contemporary production methods with historical approaches.

“The project gave so many people great experiences, and it is wonderful to see the Daleks menacing a black and white jungle once more.”

Mission to the Unknown will premiere on 9th October at 5:50PM (BST) on the Doctor Who YouTube channel.

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.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Win The Doctors: The William Hartnell Years on DVD

William Hartnell is the original Doctor Who and fans first embarked on an adventure aboard the TARDIS in An Unearthly Child on 23rd November 1963.

This year's Christmas special, Twice Upon a Time, sees David Bradley (Harry Potter) reprise Hartnell's iconic role in Peter Capaldi's regeneration story witnessing the debut of Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor Who. So, this is a timely release.

The Doctors: The William Hartnell Years features the most comprehensive collection of interviews with the actors and creators who brought the world of Doctor Who to life.

- Includes a special tribute to WILLIAM HARTNELL (the First Doctor), containing messages from a host of stars and production staff from Doctor Who.
- Presented by voice of the Daleks Nicholas Briggs.
- This double DVD also features the best in-depth interviews ever undertaken with Carole Ann Ford (Susan), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara), William Russell (Ian), Peter Purves (Steven) and Jackie Lane (Dodo).
- This 2 DISC special collector's edition is 5 hours of pure nostalgia, which will give you a whole new insight into the making of Doctor Who.
- Includes special introduction by Nicholas Briggs & Producer Keith Barnfather.

To celebrate the release of The Doctors: The William Hartnell Years, we’re offering one reader a chance to win a copy on DVD.

To be in with a chance of winning, just answer this simple question:

Which serial was William Hartnell’s last as the titular Time Lord?

A. An Unearthly Child
B. The Tenth Planet
C. The Web Planet

Please leave your answer in the comments below.

The competition is open to UK readers only and closes Friday, 24th November. The winner will be randomly selected and contacted soon thereafter. Good luck.

Pre-order The Doctors: The William Hartnell Years from Amazon. This is an affiliate link and as such, I may receive compensation for any referrals.

Be sure to subscribe for future competitions.

Special thanks to Koch Media for supplying the competition prize.

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.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Doctor Who treading The Waters of Mars

Last night's Doctor Who special epitomised the good and bad of the current series, and is proof positive that Russell T Davies' tenure has plunged into self-referential parody!

There's been an awful lot of running in Doctor Who - metaphorically and literally - this decade. I have no qualms with metaphor and the dramatic impetus therein! However, literal running reached its zenith in The Waters of Mars last night.

The plot and set design, cynically, lent itself to the ideology of running... Clearly, Davies' ran out of creative ideas several seasons ago. Too often I found myself clock watching. It was only in the quieter, character moments, where the episode excelled and the actors were allowed, dare I suggest, to act. Even Murray Gold's orchestral compositions, of which I am a fan, were often jarring and disjointed.

The alien entity was no match for the once-monstrous Martian Ice Warriors (The Curse of Peladon notwithstanding), a species curiously referenced by the Doctor as "a fine and noble race who built an empire out of snow." I'd have much preferred a base under siege story with Ice Warriors as per Patrick Troughton's era!

The Doctor's transformation from misfit to an unbound, arrogant and dangerous, alien force was genius and evoked William Hartnell and Tom Baker! The hubris that follows sets things up for the last two-part special scheduled for Christmas and the New Year.

Robots are often mined for comedic relief in sci-fi. Star Wars' R2-D2 and C3-PO and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy's Marvin are prime examples - funny and endearing. However, the robot, which appeared in The Waters of Mars, was risible and wouldn't have garnered a single G rating in The Gadget Show (my Tomy Omnibot Mk II was more convincing!). Mat Irvine, who built K9 in the original series, would've blushed with embarrassment!

The Waters of Mars was 'better' than Planet of the Dead. But, that's little consolation. The Cloister Bell chimes were most welcome by journey's end.