Monday, 25 November 2013

Issue 15 - THE ANNIVERSARY ONE - Contribution Details

Everyone thinks that the Anniversary of Doctor Who is over...but it isn't! The 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who is just starting! To celebrate this, we're producing (what we hope!) will be our biggest and best Issue ever. As always, we need contributions from you.

For this Issue we're looking for essays/reports on the 50th Anniversary, amazingly enough! We want to know what YOU did for the big day, what you thought, what you felt etc Whether you watched it at home, saw it at a cinema, went to a party...anything! Also, we're after your reviews of the actual episode (positive - or negative). If all of that doesn't take your fancy, you can write about what you think of 50 years of Doctor Who and what it means to you.

Please e-mail us at fishcustardfanzine@googlemail.com with whatever you like! Please note that the deadline is 7th December

Cheers!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Happy 50th Birthday Doctor Who!

"Susan and I are cut off from our own planet, without friends or protection. But one day we shall get back. Yes, one day. One day."


What can you say about a television programme that has kept generations of people happy for 50 years? It has - and will continue to - inspire and entertain many more in the next 50 years and for that reason alone, Doctor Who has proven to be the best television programme of all time. Let's raise a glass to everyone who has worked on the programme. Thank-you Doctor Who. The world would be an infinitely duller place without you.

Have a great day, however you're celebrating! 

We're looking for contributions for our next Issue, so if you fancy telling us about what you did today, how and where you watched the episode, what you did to celebrate the Anniversary, please e-mail us at fishcustardfanzine@googlemail.com

(After today, obviously!)

Friday, 22 November 2013

The Randomiser - 50 Years of Doctor Who Stories - Part 5

The final day of our journey. Here are three stories from the three Doctors of the 2000’s. Expect scares, laughter and a bit of wood.

The Unquiet Dead

It’s arrived! Doctor Who has arrived! That was the thing most people took away in 2005 after The Unquiet Dead first aired.  Yes, Rose and The End of The World were okay, but this episode really forced Doctor Who, and what it was about, home to millions of new viewers.  I should know, I was one of them.

It’s funny, whilst watching this again, I thought back to that first series and think about how average some of the episodes were.  I think if the same episodes were aired during Series 2 or 3 they wouldn’t have gone down as well, but despite that first series being chaotic from a production point of view, it was all new, so it’s still held in high esteem.  For me though, The Unquiet Dead, along with a few others from Series 1, will go down as a bone-fide ‘new series classic’. 

The story sees The Doctor and Rose appear in Cardiff in 1869, just as Charles Dickens (Simon Callow) is in town. At a local Funeral Home however, they have a problem. The dead are rising and killing the living…

It’s a great story, which zips through 45 minutes in seemingly no time at all.  The idea of The Gelth was a clever one and it follows the tradition of Doctor Who explaining things that appear to be ‘magic’ (or phantasmagoria, as Charlie Boy calls it) with science.  This is Mark Gatiss’ first script for the series and you can tell it’s something that he was probably planning for years.

Simon Callow was great as Charles Dickens, the line "I thought you was a fan?" when The Doctor criticises one of his books, could have been aimed at Who fans! Similarly, I thought that this was one of Eve Myles’ strongest performances in the Doctor Who ‘universe’ – as we know, on the strength of this, she went on to play Gwen Cooper in Torchwood. And speaking of which – this story is the start of ‘The Rift’, which attracts all sorts of alien attention and brings them through onto the streets of Cardiff!  The later episode Boom Town investigates this further and of course, the job of the branch of Torchwood in the spin-off series was to monitor The Rift. It’s a clever idea which serves many purposes, the main one being to explain why Cardiff is constantly a setting in the show!

I don’t want (and can’t) say any more – but if you ever need a fun and scary 9th Doctor episode – this one is perfect. Which is a good job really, as he’s only got the 13 episodes!

The Unicorn and The Wasp

This is an episode that I feel is something that divides fans. It’s not quite on the same scale as the love-it-or-hate Love and Monsters (for the record - I like them both) but it’s not far away.  The Unicorn and The Wasp is basically a light murder mystery. Like Murder, She Wrote! (But without the old lady batting her eyelashes at any elderly Gentleman she meets).

The story sees The Doctor and Donna gatecrash a high-society garden party, laid on by Lady Eddison (Felicity Kendal).  Many guests turn up, including famous crime novelist Agatha Christie (Fenella Woolgar) just as someone turns up dead in the library, smacked with some lead piping. There’s a Cludeo-style mystery afoot!

The story was fine, though I felt the conclusion was a little bit rushed.  Maybe it could have been the beneficiary of an extra couple of minutes, just so time could be taken to explain how The Doctor and Agatha came up with their conclusions, at a slower pace, so we could take it all in! Otherwise, it’s an enjoyable story with plenty of laughs and references.  The actors make this and all the cast are on top form. It was great to Christopher Benjamin (Sir Keith Gold in Inferno and unforgettably – as Henry Gordon Jago, originally from the Tom Baker classic The Talons of Weng-Chiang) again and he had a few good lines as the wheelchair-bound Colonel.  Fenella Woolgar, at the suggestion of David Tennant, plays Agatha Christie and she portrayed a woman, despite her brilliance, doubted herself both professionally and personally.  The explanation of her real-life disappearance was well done and despite my earlier complaint of the conclusion being too rushed, this felt fine as actions take no time at all to transpire.  As Agatha says, the joy is in the chase, never the capture.

Donna made me laugh when she was sitting there, listening to The Doctor whilst he was summing up the case like Poriot, asking him if such-and-such was the murderer, whilst she was eating. It’s exactly like us watching a murder mystery and wondering whodunit, sat in the comfort of our homes.  The Doctor being told off by Agatha for ‘taking joy’ in the case (when people are being murdered) was well played and basically summed The Doctor up. I do wish the series would play more on this aspect of The Doctor sometimes – in some stories, he seems to enjoy himself when death and destruction is all around.

The Unicorn and The Wasp is a nice little ‘romp’ that will be enjoyed by people into their Murder Mysteries.  There’s even a reference to Dickens and The Unquiet Dead!  For those who don’t like it, just think, it could have been worse. Murder, She Wrote had a few stinkers too!

Probably.

The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe

You know, when I drew this out, I wasn’t looking forward to it. I think I’ve only seen it twice and being a Doctor Who fan, that isn’t enough.  I just remember not being entertained at all by it.  Times change and almost 2 years on, I think better of it.

Okay, it isn’t exactly the best piece of Doctor Who since 2005, nor is it even the best Christmas Special.  The problem I think it has, is that it’s tagged ‘Christmas Special’. In these episodes we expect big, massive, enormous stories with story arcs converging and playing out.  The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe just isn’t that. It’s a Christmas adventure that subtly tries to do something different.  The Doctor Who hype machine and fans alike tend to build things up and build things up and all the attention just doesn’t suit what the episode was. It isn’t the greatest thing ever, nor is it the worst.  It’s just alright.

The story sees The Doctor crashland on Earth and after a local woman, Madge Arwell (Claire Skinner) helps him to find his TARDIS, he decides to repay the favour by treating her and her family to a Christmas ‘they’ll never forget’.

I think the episode showed a few sides to The Doctor, namely him being naive by leaving something as dangerous as a time portal out of his sight, alarm system or not. But I think it showed how lonely he had become. He did the right thing in trying to repay Madge, but you could argue that he only did it because he had nothing else to do and nobody with him to impress.  But with The Doctor’s life, he tends to lead people into danger and I didn’t really feel that there was any real threat in the story.  Maybe that’s the problem this story has, something to get you off the edge of your seat.  It’s just a nice watch, a comfy watch.

I don’t really mind the whole ‘Mother knows best’ aspect of the story and the lack of screen time for other guest stars in this, which were the two biggest criticisms that I read about.  I enjoyed the Androzani shout-out (though no camera asides by any of actors – that would have been hilarious!) and the story of Madge had shown that she was a strong woman, at a time when everyone needed to be strong. She had purposely hid the news of the death of her husband because she didn’t want to spoil Christmas. Telling Children news that like must require great strength. The solution was about the lifeforce of the trees being carried by a childbearing being, so I don’t really see anything there that needs to be picked at.

The ending was undoubtedly great though. The Doctor going back to the Pond’s and wiping away that tear of happiness when he learns that they always set a place for him. “I couldn’t feel those things anymore” he told Madge earlier. Now he does. Class ending in a story that rattled along nicely without hitting any real heights (or drops) Think of it like a ride on a train, rather than a rollercoaster (unless you’re travelling on your local train company’s service).

So our random adventure through 50 years and 11 Doctors comes to an end. Thank you for reading and enjoy whatever is you’re doing tomorrow.  For our next issue we’re looking for contributions from people, telling us what they did for the big day.  Anything you’re doing, from watching it at any events you may be going to watching it at home. Please e-mail us at fishcustardfanzine@googlemail.com

Cheers!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Randomiser - 50 Years of Doctor Who Stories - Part 4

Today’s Randomiser sees us do things a little bit different. But don’t fret – both of these stories are CANON. Remember that.
                          
Time and The Rani

The one story that you don’t want to pull out of your 10 year-old Quality Street lid, and it’s probably this  Time and The Rani.  It makes Terror of The Vervoids look like an episode of Poriot.
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I don’t like bitching about episodes, as plenty of people worked very hard just to bring these to our screens, but after watching this, I wondered why they bothered.

It’s 1987 and Colin Baker had been sacked. Not by the producer or anyone who had anything to do with the making of the show, but the head of Programming at the BBC.  Not just that – but the budget continued to be whittled away by the powers-that-be.  Whilst watching this, I kept wondering; Why did they set this on a alien planet, when they had a miniscule budget to play with? Why couldn’t they have done what they did in 1970 and bind The Doctor to earth? That way – they save money on sets and what’s more, the scenery is actually real.  The situation with Colin (quite rightly) refusing to come back to film a regeneration scene couldn’t have been avoided, but wouldn’t it have been more believable if the TARDIS crash-landed on Earth, with The Doctor trying to fix things in the console room? Mel could have toddled off to a new Zero Room or something, which would explain why she was unscathed.  Instead we got a ridiculous story, with The Rani shooting down the TARDIS and dressing up to fool the regenerated Doctor. No wonder he didn’t know what was going on, I didn’t either.  What’s more, after the pretty decent Mark of The Rani, this story pushed the character down that slippery slope of being held up as a ‘joke’ and that just got worse with Dimensions In Time. Normally, I don't mind 'bad' stories, as long as I see something in it that captures my imagination or makes me laugh. This didn't do any of those things.

The story revolves around The Rani (Kate O’Mara) and her stealing some of the universes greatest geniuses (and The Doctor) to contribute to a ‘Time Brain’ that will turn the planet into a ‘time manipulator’ that will give her control of time across the universe. Or something.

For a start - the story isn’t worthy of four parts.  Nothing really happens in the first two parts to advance The Rani’s plan – she just dresses up as Mel and gets The (newly-regenerated) Doctor to fix one of her machines.  I have trouble with this, as it’s been well established that The Doctor isn’t exactly a standout ‘genius’ within his own race, The Master and The Rani have demonstrated more ability. Meanwhile, Mel just pisses around on the surface of the planet, that looks like nothing but a quarry, screaming her head off.  Some of the acting is quite painful. Sylvester is so off the pace here, regeneration or not.  To be fair, I don’t think the actors were particularly helped by the direction.

Apart from The Rani, the other ‘villains’ of the story were the Tetraps.  These monsters look like something that was rejected from Tom Baker’s era for being too rubbish. I could have sworn that one of the Lakertyans was trying his best not to piss himself laughing when he was being talked at by a Tetrap. Just sums the story up for me.

Like I’ve previously said with these reviews, I would never recommend not to watch any Doctor Who story, all I’ll say is that Time and The Rani is a real education.  It’s a lesson on how not to do Doctor Who, especially at a time when the knives were out for this ‘rubbish and outdated’ programme, it’s extremely sad to see what was produced.

Still, the sky looked nice.

The Eight Truths/Worldwide Web

With The Night of The Doctor establishing the Eighth Doctor’s audios as CANON, this would be a great opportunity to mix things up and put them into the draw along with McGann’s two on-screen stories. The odds were always in favour of me picking an audio and low and behold, the Series 3 ‘finale’ two-parter was the chosen one (or 'The Great One' if you will). It's fortunate in a way, because this story brings back a classic monster race from Jon Pertwee’s final story – The Eight Legs!

The Doctor and Lucie are in London, investigating a space probe and a strange cult that seems to have come from nowhere to become a major religion, professing the end of the world.  Are they being truthful? You'd better watch your backs…

This story is an interesting listen, but I don’t particularly think that this is the strongest Eighth Doctor story in terms of advancing the main characters. It starts off great, but once the Eight Legs come to fore, I feel that the action aspect slightly tails off as it delves into ‘sciencey territory’ which, if you're not fully concentrating on, might be a bit confusing, so you’ll need to listen carefully to it.  Otherwise, it’s a clever story and fits in seamlessly with what we learned about The Eight Legs in Planet of The Spiders.  The title of the opening part ‘The Eight Truths’ relates to a Buddhist believe system ‘The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path’ and I felt that the story captured the sense of (what some people) would call ‘a cult’.  Of course, this fictional ‘cult’ has been designed for a motive not relating to peace and harmony - but you’ll need to listen to find out what it is!

The story is crammed with more guest stars than a Stellar Manipulator. Stephen Moore, Sophie Winkleman and Sanjeev Bhaskar play the main supporting cast and there's also a couple of characters from previous stories in the audio range. This story isn't any different though, as all the episodes contain a big name or two amongst the cast. The quality of the casting just shows how much of a pull Doctor Who is and a quality name, by definition, adds that little bit of extra quality to the story and makes it more of an enjoyable experience.

I wouldn’t recommend that you listen to this right away, as I've mentioned above, it contains a couple of characters exclusively from the Eighth Doctor audio range.  If you’re new to these stories, start from Series 1 (Blood of The Daleks) which introduces Lucie and go from there.  The majority of the stories are a great listen and really do bridge that gap between ‘classic’ and ‘new’ Doctor Who.  Sheridan Smith is great and likeable as Lucie and McGann is always fun to listen too. Maybe it'll work well in a Spiders Double (or 'Treble', if you're being pedantic, Bill.

You can check out them at www.bigfinish.com

Tomorrow is our last day as we cover the Doctors from the ‘new era’ of Doctor Who!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Randomiser - 50 Years of Doctor Who Stories - Part 3

On day three of our pissing over the legacy of Doctor Who by writing quick, random and let’s face it, poor reviews, we’re covering stories from two Doctors who never changed their trousers.

The Five Doctors

No, I haven’t cheated. The fact that my random drawing system produced the 20th Anniversary story is purely coincidental. I wanted Caves of Androzani.

I’ve seen this story a few times and I must admit, I enjoy it more with each watch.  There’s (obviously) references flying all over the place, some hammy (but great) acting and of course – there’s Five Doctors.  Well, technically only 3 of the actors returned – William Hartnell sadly passed away 8 years previously, so the role of the First Doctor was played by Richard Hurndall. Tom Baker declined to return, so clips from the unused Shada were used in this.  Hartnell does appear at the start though - the marvellous clip of him saying goodbye to Susan in The Dalek Invasion of Earth is used as the pre-titles sequence.

The story sees someone attempting to ‘collect’ all the Doctors and place them in Gallifrey’s ‘Death Zone’ – a area put aside for ‘The Game’, a long-banned Time Lord pursuit that saw them collect different aliens to make them fight. Can The Doctors get themselves back together and find out who is behind their kidnapping?

Of course they can!

Coming in at around an hour and 40 minutes, The Five Doctors is pure joy. The pacing of the story works well and you never get bored watching this, as your eyes will be constantly glued to the screen with all the goings-on.  There are some very convenient plot devices (like there being roads on Gallifrey, Sarah wearing a rain coat when being dragged up an hill and let’s not forget - torches placed at the foot of a dark cave!) but those just wash away when you see The Doctors arguing with each other and the Master creeping around, trying to ‘help’ – and then his day being ended prematurely when the Brigadier punches him!

It’s a great shame that Tom wasn’t involved, but Hurndall, who was given more to do following Tom’s no, does a good job of playing the First Doctor. It isn’t an exact impersonation, which I think was for the best, but I could have done with less of him calling himself (the Fifth Doctor) ‘young man’, when he’s actually younger than him! The idea of having another actor to play the role worked, simply because many people watching at the time, wouldn’t have seen Hartnell in the role.  Remember – this was 20 years later and repeats were never shown. A market for VHS was a few years away, and it’s not as if they had the episodes in the BBC vaults to sell!

The availability of certain Doctors wasn’t the only thing to hamstring this – the writing proved to be difficult too. Robert Homes was originally slated to write, but after a disagreement with script editor, Eric Saward, Holmes left the production and Saward went cap-in-hand to Terrance Dicks. Terrance actually tells a good story about this – Saward wanted both Holmes and Dicks to write a script each and the best one would be chosen.  Dicks declined, claiming that it was ‘disrespectful’ to both himself and a man who he called ‘the best Doctor Who writer’, so Holmes went ahead to write a draft (entitled The Six Doctors – the ‘sixth’ being a Cyberman-created First Doctor – hence why he looks a bit different) but it never got past it’s first draft.

I think, in the circumstances, Dicks did a great job. It can be difficult to get in enough lines for 4 Doctors, a few companions AND to give preference to the current Doctor and his team, especially with the amount of rewrites that had to be done with availability/budget issues, but it works.  As I mentioned, the pacing really helps this to tick along and it just shows that you can do a Doctor Who ‘feature’ on telly, so it bodes well for the upcoming Fiftieth!

The main thing I can say about this story, without going into details and spoiling it more than I already have, is that it’s very fun.  I think it’s something that you can show to a casual Doctor Who watcher (as they generally know what the show is about) but don’t show it to any new watchers. They won’t appreciate the threat of the magnificent Raston Warrior Robot – they’ll just laugh at it!
                                         
Do yourself a favour this Anniversary - get a copy of The Five Doctors and whack it on. It’s fun all the way through!

Terror of The Vervoids (or Trial of A Timelord - Parts 9-12)

The Doctor is giving evidence at his trial.  His defence sees him show his future adventure aboard the spaceship Hyperion III, with Mel Bush.  He and Mel have been summoned to investigate a murder, but who is doing the killing and where are the bodies going?

Okay, I know this is technically part of one story, but each story is a story, within a story, if that makes any sense at all? Plus they’re all assigned individually production codes, so if I see these as different stories, I will. So ner.

Needless to say that my long-winded introduction is more entertaining than Terror of The Vervoids.  To sound extremely blunt – it’s a bit boring.  The pacing really lets it down – and it’s not because of the cutaways to the court room, which in all fairness, were by far the most entertaining aspects of this story.

What I do like though, is the sneakiness of the Vervoids. They don’t come to the forefront until late on, maybe that is the problem that hampers the script, but I thought it was a nice change not to have ‘the monster’ popping up constantly. The other happenings in the story just didn’t transpire to offer anything vaguely entertaining. I don’t want to see Mel telling The Doctor what to do, I don’t want to see Honor Blackman, complete with tracksuit, on a exercise bike.

Ah, Honor Blackman. The former Bond girl who was brought in to give this some credibility.  Even Sean Connery (in a wig) couldn’t give this any credibility. To be honest, she just wings her way through this and I felt no feeling for her, or any of the other characters.  In fact, my favourites were the Commodore and the Stewardess.  It doesn’t help when you’ve got your guest ‘star’ not doing much, but judging by the script, there’s nothing much more she could have done.  Pip and Jane Baker have a poor reputation amongst fans, which is a shame because their earlier story, Mark of The Rani, is one of my favourite Sixth Doctor stories.  When you look at stories like this though, you can see why they get a rough ride.  There’s nothing much redeeming about it, even if the Vervoids look like a group of talking penises.

The story is also notable for the introduction of Melanie Bush. Oh Mel! She came in telling the Doctor what to do and screamed her way through many a story (her screams could be heard even when a mask was covering her mouth, amazing that).  Her character just shows the quality of writing at the time – on Big Finish Audio, Mel is great. She’s a really likeable person and fun to listen to, but here, you just want that laundry basket, that she got dumped in, to be thrown into the fire.  The idea of introducing her before us seeing how The Doctor met her, seems like an interesting idea, but with the future of the show up in the air at the time (and knowing what we know now, with the sacking of Colin Baker) it seems like a strange twist at a time when they needed to keep viewers, not confuse them with unlikeable new companions and plot ideas.

The show was really in a flump at the time, but I don’t think most of the blame can be levelled at John Nathan-Turner. He wanted to go a few years beforehand, but wasn’t allowed to move on.  He had to stay to keep the show going, when it desperately needed a fresh eye and a bit of investment, which wasn’t forthcoming by the BBC. It’s all well and good patting yourself on the back and jumping on the bandwagon when things are going well, but when it’s going bad, you need to offer support.  Doctor Who didn’t get the support and you could argue that this couple of years ruined the careers of a few key people, namely Nathan-Turner and Colin Baker.  It’s sad to think of what might have been and this story just sums up the era – trying, but just not good enough.

I’ll never say that you shouldn’t watch a Doctor Who story, but if you ever watch Vervoids, I would do it as part of The Trial of A Timelord series.  I mean, what kind of lunatic watches these stories individually? Oh.

Come back tomorrow for more cheerful nonsense, as we choose more random stories. I bet you can’t wait.

We're looking for contributions for the Anniversary Issue of our fanzine see here for more information (and a free download of our latest Issue!) or e-mail us at fishcustardfanzine@googlemail.com

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The Randomiser - 50 Years of Doctor Who Stories - Part 2

On Day Two of our random journey through 50 years and 11 Doctors, we have a couple of episodes that are historically important because of two very different reasons. One introduces a major villain, a new companion and a recurring character, or ‘semi-companion’ if you will. The other never got broadcast, well, it was never actually made.

Terror of The Autons

The opening story of Season 8 proved to be significantly important for a number of reasons – it introduced the characters of The Master, played by Roger Delgardo, as The Doctor’s best enemy, and Jo Grant (Katy Manning) as The Doctor’s best friend.  Richard Franklin also made his bow as Captain Yates, as the producers decided to lock the revolving Captain door that had existing during the previous year.  More common soldiers were used as monster fodder instead.

The Doctor has a new assistant. But that’s not all – there’s a robbery in the UNIT vaults and a mysterious man, with a beard, is going around hypnotising people and using his horsebox as a base for all sorts of unspeakable deeds…

I suppose you could call this story a ‘sequel’ to Spearhead From Space, as The Master steals the remaining Nestene unit that originated from that story.  That's where the similarities end though, as Terror of The Autons seems like a very plodding story and, in all honesty, a bit of letdown after the brilliant Season 7.  That’s not to say this story doesn’t have it’s good bits – I LOVE the way in which The Master was introduced, immediately after the opening titles in Episode 1 (which hooked in viewers into the mystery of ‘who is this man?’ right away).  The introduction of the Time Lord, bizarrely dressed like John Steed from The Avengers, was a nice moment too. Though I’m always amazed as to why they keep trusting The Doctor to do their work for them, when they’re not all that keen on him? Couldn’t they have spared a few more Time Lords to help him out? The use of his TARDIS would have helped too! Okay, okay, I know it wouldn’t have made the story what it was, but a line here or there to explain their unhelpfulness would have helped!

Other bits I enjoyed: The Chair of Death!!! (and The Master’s line “He sat down in this chair and…he just slipped away”) The highlight of the episode though was the rapport between The Master and The Doctor, talking like two Gentlemen, going over a restaurant menu, as The Master is threatening to kill him and to destroy the world.  Brilliant.

Sadly, as mentioned, the story doesn’t seem to match up to some of it’s great lines.  I felt the plot just petered out as The Master changed his mind about having a group of creepy big-heads taking over the world (why anyone would take a flower off them, I've no idea) and the Auton threat itself seemed to be a shadow of what it was in Spearhead.

Overall, an interesting enough watch for historical purposes, but a story that is probably forgettable.

Shada

SHAAADAAAAAAAAA! Shouts Tom Baker as he introduces this BBC video from 1992, surrounded by Doctor Who monsters. When he’s not looking seductively into the camera, or taking the piss out of the surrounding monsters (I beat you…and you. And you too!) he provides the linking narration in an attempt to ‘flesh out’ the story.

Shada is (in)famous for being the only Doctor Who story that was left unfinished, because of a strike at the BBC at the time.  As it is, only about half the story exists, what with them filming scenes out of order, the linking narration, kind-of works in attempting to piece the story together.

The Doctor and Romana are in Cambridge after they receive a message from fellow (retired) Time Lord, Professor Chronotis (magnificently played by Denis Carey). The Professor wants The Doctor to return a book he took from Gallifrey, but someone else is after it, because it could be the key to taking a grip on the universe…

The story starts off well, the first 3 parts in particular are really enjoyable, but the latter 3 tail off, partly because of the lack of footage, but I think mostly because it isn’t really that interesting. Written by Douglas Adams, the story has been released on a number of platforms, including on audio (with the 8th Doctor and Romana) in book form and a vast number of fan videos and reconstructions.  I think it’s fair to say that it probably isn’t Adams’ best work for Doctor Who, but that’s like saying that the Leaning Tower of Pisa is disappointing because it’s leaning a bit.  The first 3 parts alone have that ‘Adams magic’ that put most stories in the last 2 years of Tom, in the shade. Or Shada, if you will.

We’ll never know how the story would have really shaped up and it’s a great shame that it was never completed. We can only guess from scripts, books and audios as to what the story could have been like. We’d have no idea about how it would have looked, or how it would have been acted and directed. Aspects like that mean everything to a story, even one with a dodgy plot, so because I felt that it ‘petered out’, I also realise it doesn’t necessarily mean that it actually would have.

I would say this is the version you should watch and with it being out on DVD now, it’s easy enough to obtain.  Oh and if you do manage to watch this – look out for the cliffhanger at the end of episode 1, where The Doctor climbs over a fence, only for him to, quite clearly, place his leg underneath the fence to look like he’s ‘trapped’ as a massive beach ball is bearing down on him.  It’s very funny!

Shada is something that started off well, but thanks in no small part to not being completed, didn’t fulfil its potential.

Come back tomorrow for more instant reviews on two more random Doctor Who stories. These quick reviews are the Doctor Who blogging equivalent to showing respect by stepping on a grave, but we'll persist nonetheless.

Monday, 18 November 2013

The Randomiser - 50 Years of Doctor Who Stories - Part 1

To celebrate 50 years of Doctor Who stories, we decided to do something that is perhaps a tad ambitious for our lazy selves – watching and reviewing two Doctor Who stories a day (one per Doctor) up until the 23rd November.  Somehow, we hope these quick observations and thoughts will make a little bit of sense and get you (and us!) in the mood in time for the big day!

We’ve used our hi-tec ‘randomiser’ (a lid of a Quality Street tub and pieces of paper, with numbers corresponding to episodes, written on them) and drew one out for each Doctor. So we have our 11 random stories to watch in 5 days (yes, we know that on one day, we’ll need to watch 3!) question is, what are they?

Well here are our first two:

The Aztecs

Piece of paper No6 meant that I drew out ‘The Aztecs’. A story which saw The Doctor hitting on women,

long before the modern day series, Barbara becoming a god, Ian having (what seemed like) drunken fights and Susan just shouting at people. It’s great.

Written by John Lucarotti, who had previously written Marco Polo and would go on to write The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve and also be commissioned to write The Ark In Space (but never completed his work as it was re-written), the story sees the TARDIS land in Mexico at the time of Aztecs and after Barbara goes snooping and gets herself locked in a temple, it’s up to the others to go and rescue her. Unfortunately, there’s a political threat going on…

I quite enjoyed this story the first time I saw it - and I still do now.  The ending of the first episode is quality, as Tlotoxl looks straight into the camera – at you – and says I will destroy her! I can just imagine viewers at the time being slightly frightened. He’s really not a pleasant fellow to look at either (thanks to the make-up may I add!)

There’s some good character development too – Barbara believes she can change history and despite The Doctor advising against it (You can’t change history – not one line!) she still tries but ultimately sees through her own folly.  The Doctor too has started to mellow and this is a great performance by Hartnell. He’s got a good rapport with Jacqueline Hill in this and the plot of him and the Aztec woman is amusing and a little bit heartbreaking, if truth be told.  The scene of him putting down the gift which she gave him, before he left in the TARDIS, only for him to turn back, pick it up again and slip it into his pocket, just shows you the amount of feeling that The Doctor has.  Much different to what he was like in the prior stories.

Ian on the other hand, cements his position as the ‘Action Man’ of the show, as when he’s not knocking out an Aztec warrior with his thumb, he’s having a rather funny fight scene with his nemesis and eventually throws him to his death. Powerful stuff.  John Ringham (Tlotoxl) almost steals the show with his sneaky political dealings and attempts to proclaim Barbara as an imposter (which she is of course).  Sometimes I wonder who the real villains are in Doctor Who – what if they would have never landed there? Would as many people have had their lives changed? The place would have carried on as normal, surely? The Doctor claims to Barbara that you failed a civilisation but you saved one man but was the death of a couple of people worth that? It’s something to think about at least!

So if you’re looking for an early Doctor Who that is enjoyable, has some great characters and lines – The Aztecs might just fit the bill.

The Dominators

I’ll level with you here – this is the first time I’ve seen The Dominators.  And to be even more honest – despite reading negative reviews, I actually enjoyed it.  Okay, the story is too long and the Quarks and costumes are hilarious, but that’s exactly why I like it!

Written by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln (under the pseudonym ‘Norman Ashby’ – you probably can guess why) the story sees The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe ‘on holiday’ on a planet that The Doctor thinks is safe, but apparently, it's radioactive and the occupants of a spaceship are hanging around, killing people who get in their way…

I can see why this story gets a bit of negative reaction - if you’re not in the mood, especially after watching people, dressed in curtains, hauling rocks for a couple of episodes and being shouted at by men wearing boiler jackets about 10 sizes too big, it can rub you up the wrong way.  Apparently this was originally going to be a 6-parter, but was cut because of the lack of material - it would be better as a 3-parter in all honesty, as the actual ‘story’ doesn’t get going until the third episode. 

I really enjoyed the character of Cully (played by Arthur Cox, who would later, much later, pop up as Mr Henderson in The Eleventh Hour) who seemed like one of those men, born into a powerful family and wanted to do something to please his father. I giggled at his ‘Cully’s Adventures Limited’ business and his partnership with Jamie seemed to work well too. Sadly, the words ‘character development’ couldn’t have applied to any of the others in the story.  I also thought that they were really going somewhere with the two ‘Dominators’ but the angst between them didn’t boil over, apart from the one time when things quickly got sorted out.

The Quarks. Oh dear. On paper they seem like a good idea – robots that can seemingly do anything, apart from notice someone coming up behind them with a threatening bedsheet. They were billed as the ‘next Daleks’ but I refuse to believe that even in the 1960’s, they looked nothing else but small men dressed in cardboard, bumbling around. Still, it’s the sort of thing that makes you love Doctor Who, so I don’t mind really!

The Dominators, for blindingly obvious reasons, isn’t down as a classic, but if you’re after rubbish monsters, it’s the one for you!

More random stories tomorrow, as the Third and Fourth Doctor’s are the subject of our Randomiser!