Saturday, 30 June 2012

First Preview of Toby Hadoke's My Stepson Stole My Sonic Screwdriver

On Thursday night I had the good fortune to attend the very first preview of the follow up to Mr. Toby Hadoke's Sony Gold nominated Moth's Ate My Dr. Who Scarf. For those of you that don't know Toby Hadoke is a comedian and actor closely affiliated with Doctor Who. A lifelong fan, with an encyclopedic knowledge, Hadoke has worked for Doctor Who audio producers, Big Finish, leant his expertise to several classic range Doctor Who DVD commentaries, staged a successful Doctor Who-themed comedy show and also co-written a book detailing the exploits of a chronological marathon-watch of the entire Doctor Who oeuvre which inspired this very blog. Basically he's a bit of a legend. Although he'd never permit it.

Hadoke's self effacing, grumpy old man comedic style serves him well, as he shares with us his love of Doctor Who, mocks Meglos, rallys against a post 2005 all-purpose sonic screwdriver, and finally acknowledges the giant rat in the room. My Stepson Stole My Sonic Screwdriver tells the story of the trials of losing a partner and the joy of gaining a stepson. Hadoke rewards fans with many peppered references but also welcomes relative Doctor Who novices, with corduroy-jacketed open arms. The show has the same unexpected heart-warming charm as Moths Ate My Dr. Who Scarf and certainly appeals to audiences universally.

At first preview, and I believe, sixth draft stage, the show is in incredibly good condition. Some laptop issues and moments of forgetfulness will doubtlessly be ironed out as the show grows and changes. Regardless of a few minor technical hitches, Hadoke makes his audience chuckle, chortle, laugh, and guffaw whilst also charming and moving us with his struggles with Separation, Psoriasis, and a Sonic Screwdriver Stealing Stepson.

You can still catch a few more previews of My Stepson Stole My Sonic Screwdriver at the following venues before it heads to Edinburgh for it's run at the Gilded Balloon 1 – 26 August.

1st July The Beacon, Tunbridge Wells
5th July Lantern Theatre, Sheffield
19th July A Laugh Inn, Stockport
20th July The Howard Room, Bedford Fringe
22nd July New Diorama London
23rs July XS Malarkey, Manchester

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Action Figure Report: 5th Doctor Castrovalva Figure

After what feels like an age of nothing on the Doctor Who Action figure front Forbidden Planet and Underground Toys have announced their next exclusive Classic Doctor Who Figure. It's the 5th Doctor in the Fourth Doctors clothes and the Master's TARDIS disguised as a piller from the story Castrovalva. The set also features a miniaturised victim of the Master. It's expected release date is 20th August and it is priced at £19.99. I can't say, in all honesty, that I am very excited about this one but I'm sure that once series 7 (Season 33) gets going we'll see some new additions to the range.

Friday, 22 June 2012


With much sadness it was officially confirmed today that actress Caroline John who played Elisabeth Shaw alongside Jon Pertwee in the first colour series of Doctor Who in 1970 passed away on the 5th June. She was 71. Dr Elizabeth Shaw provided brains, cool-headed intelligence and maturity where once the Doctor's female companions had screamed and asked questions. John played a companion ahead of her time and she will be sorely missed.

John appeared in only four Doctor Who stories Spearhead From Space, The Silurians, The Ambassadors of Death and Inferno. In my opinion these stories formed one of the very best and most consistent series of Doctor Who ever made. John reprised her role in cameos in The Five Doctors and the Children In Need special Dimensions In Time, she also leant her voice to many audio adventures for Liz Shaw for Big Finish Productions. She was a beautiful, talented and kind hearted individual and although Liz never got to go for a spin through time and space in the Doctor's old Police Box, she is certainly now in the Tardis in the sky.

My thoughts go out to her husband Geoffrey Beevers and her children Daisy, Ben and Tom.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

58: Colony In Space - It's Not Quite Avatar But It's Underrated

Written by: Malcolm Hulke
Companions: The Doctor, Jo Grant, Brigadier.
Monsters/Villains: Uxarieans, Captain Dent, IMC, Time Lords, The Master.
Brief Synopsis: The Time Lords deploy the Doctor to the planet Uxarieus to avert disaster, and he becomes embroiled in a struggle between the planet's Colonists and a powerful Mining Corporation.
Rating: 8/10.

Colony In Space is a story that doesn't get a lot of mention. It boasts a great cast, some interesting ideas and comparisons and three more big firsts for the Programme: The first non-earth-story for Pertwee's Doctor, as the Time Lords send him on a mission. The first visit to another planet for Jo Grant giving her a kind of subsidiary introductory story. And indeed the first alien planet in colour. It seems ironic, however that the quarry that stands in for the planet Uxarieus is presented for the most part in stark, colourless greys, and browns. My favourite Doctor Who writer, Malcolm Hulke is back at the helm and he doesn't disappoint. 
IMC's first attempt to scare the colonists away failed. I wonder why?
Colony In Space is Hulke's comment on the struggle between European Settlers and Native Americans. The comparisons are clear to see, the colonists from Earth in the year 2472 have come to Uxarieus seeking pastures new. They have escaped Earth which has become vastly over populated, polluted, and is under the control of a repressive government. Sound familiar?

The Prize for silliest haircut in Doctor Who history goes to
Morris Perry as IMC Captain Dent. I mean what is that?
Barely reaching subsistance level with their crops, the Colonists are trying to live in harmony with the planet's indigenous peoples they call primitives when the Interplanetary Mining Corporation (IMC) shows up claiming the mineral rights to the planet, with a plan to devour it's resources for their own profit, regardless of the primitives or colonists, leaving nothing but a gutted and desolate planet. This story is very anti big-corporations. IMC claim to want the planet's source of Duralinium, to build more desperately needed living complexes on Earth, but the Doctor argues that what Earth really needs is new planet's like this one.

Three Time Lords ruin the two surprising plot points!
The master makes an appearance in every story in season 8. In an attempt to make his presence more of a surprise, he doesn't turn up until the middle of this story, posing as an Earth Adjudicator send to solve the differences between the colonists and IMC. His true plan is to harness the power of a super weapon buried within the Uxariean City. However, this artifice is spoilt in the opening moments of the very first episode, when we see three Time Lords discussing the Master and a missing file on "The Doomsday Weapon." I really like this story a lot but it would have been distinctly improved if we had not known of the Master's involvement or why the Time Lords had sent the Doctor to Uxarieus. Then the Master's arrival and the reveal of his plans to utilize the Doomsday Weapon would have caught us more off guard.

The Master, with the Doomsday Weapon.
The Uxarieans represent the Native American's in this comparison. They created and tested the Doomsday Weapon, but never used it. It can cause any star in the universe to go supernova. Their culture began to decline, turning away from scientific achievement and entering into a kind of Dark Age. We even see a kind of cave-painting-like story of their decline around the walls in a room where the Doctor and Jo are kept prisoner. The story clearly argus the negative effect that too much technology or too much power can have on a civilisation.

I found myself wondering: what does this guy do the rest of
the time? Does he just sit behind his little wall waiting for
intergalactic aliens to trespass in his city, so he can scold them?
They evolved into three different species: the so-called Primitives, who had three fingers on each hand, striped green skin and carried long spears; the Priests, who had pale skin and large, ridged heads, and were nearly blind; and the small, pale Guardian who ruled over the underground city. As you can judge for yourself the design work on the Uxarieans isn't great, but the same designer had a chance to redeem himself when a few years later he worked on Death To The Daleks and created the appearance of the Exillons that were greatly superior.

An Uxariean Priest.
I want to take a moment to discuss the anomaly that is Jo Grant. I love her, but so far at least, she really doesn't get much to do. She doesn't do much for the role of the companion or women in her time, she merely acts as "someone to hold [the Doctor's] test tube and tell [him] how brilliant [he] is." And yet, I still warm to her. In this story she goes in to the TARDIS for the first time, she travel's in time and space and we learn that she hadn't ever believed the Doctor's stories. This is her fourth adventure with the Doctor, but it feels like her first, like she's undergone an overdue initiation or right of passage. Hopefully from here on in she'll have more to do. I've had the pleasure of meeting Katy Manning (Jo Grant) a few times and she is just such a loveable character. She may not have always had the best writing or character development, but she certainly did her very best with what she did have.

John Ringham as Ashe.
Colony In Space has a terrific cast, with John Ringham (who played Tlotoxl in The Aztecs and Josiah Blake in The Smugglers) making a return to the series as the colonist leader Ashe, the wonderfully evil  and hilariously haired Morris Perry as Captain Dent, an unusual on-screen appearance for Dalek Voice actor Roy Skelton as the IMC operative posing as a colonist Norton, an early job for Helen Worth of Coronation Street fame as Mary Ashe, and of course the return of the unrivalled Bernard Kay (Carl Tyler in Dalek Invasion of Earth, Saladin in The Crusade, and Inspector Crossland in The Faceless Ones) as the colonist sympathiser and IMC Mineralogist, Caldwell. Caldwell is certainly the closest likeness to John Smith of the Pocahontas story. Colony Is Space is not quite Avatar but it's underrated.

Bernard Kay as Caldwell.
It all ends for the best. Mostly. The Doomsday Weapon is destroyed by the Uxariean Guardian, The Master escapes, Ashe sacrifices himself to save the colonists who overpower Dent and his henchmen. With sufficient evidence of their illegal activity, they are confident the real Adjudicator will rule in their favour. The radiation from the Doomsday Weapon was the cause of their crop failures, and the Doctor assures the colonists that their future is now secure. The TARDIS returns the Doctor and Jo to UNIT seconds after they left. I love that we don't actually see everything totally resolved at the end. I definitely think that was a purposeful choice. The Colonists have beaten IMC, for now, and their crops should start to grow, hopefully the real Adjudicator will rule in their favour, but none of these are certainties. It isn't a lasting peace, because there's no such thing.

Look at the hair and beards on those Colonists.
Colony In Space feels like something that could actually happen one day. Hulke doesn't drive his point home as hard as he does in some of his other stories but this one certainly has a lot on offer and I maintain that, although it isn't the best story ever, it is one of the most underrated.

Join me next time for the British Hammer Horror inspired classic, The Dæmons.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Ambassadors Of Death & Mind Of Evil Restoration Update

So is anyone else really looking forward to the painstaking and beautifully restored DVD releases of The Ambassadors Of Death and The Mind Of Evil? 'Cause I am! This photo was posted on twitter on 8th June 2012 by Stuart Humphryes, the man behind the YouTube's Babelcolour, and shows a still from the Ambassadors Of Death VHS compared with the full gamut colour recovery by Richard Russell. The difference is astounding. Russell has performed colour recovery on Ambassadors episodes 2-7 and Mind of Evil episodes 2-6. Humphryes is rumoured to be colourising the first episodes of The Ambassadors Of Death and The Mind of Evil which both lack the necessary cromadots needed for colour recovery. Neither story have release dates attached yet, but Ambassadors is rumoured for release at the end of 2012, but Mind of Evil not until late 2013. 

This is colour restored still from The Mind Of Evil.

Above is a video compilation of Babelcolour colourised Doctor Who.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

57: The Claws Of Axos - Beware of Golden Aliens Bearing Gifts

Written by: Bob Baker & David Martin.
Companions: The Doctor, Jo Grant, Brigadier, Captain Yates, Sergeant Benton.
Monsters/Villains: Axos, The Master.
Brief Synopsis: A crippled alien ship lands on Earth bearing a miraculous substance called Axonite.
Rating: 4/10.

I have been putting off the write up of The Claws of Axos as I don't really have much to say on this one.  It's not that it doesn't have anything going for it, it's almost that it tries to do too much and therefore doesn't achieve anything. There are so many ideas jostling for attention and none of them get given the time they need to develop; many are good ideas but we seem to move on to the next one before we can even fathom where the previous was heading.

The humanoid Axons, bearing Axonite.
In a nut-shell this alien ship tries to land on earth, the Conservative MP defence minister Chinn decides to destroy it and when that doesn't work, he has a change of heart and along with UNIT and the Doctor decides to go aboard. Inside they meet the beautiful, golden humanoid aliens, the Axons, who's science has taken an organic path. They claim they are in desperate need of fuel and in return will offer their amazing, miracle element which can, grow, shrink and replicate any substance, which I guess could be pretty useful. Also the Masters there too. At some point before the episode starts he's got himself kidnapped by Axos, but he's got a deal to lead them to earth in exchange for the death of the Doctor and all life on earth. The Axons randomly copy a visiting american agent, Bill Filer and send him to stop the Doctor from learning what Axonite really is, but the Doctor learns that Axos is one gestalt entity planning on feasting on the earth's energy. Then the Axons reveal their true appearance, capture the Doctor and Jo and threaten to age Jo to death if the Doctor doesn't give them the secrets of time travel. Axos then plans to use a local reactor to cause a nuclear explosion. The Master helps UNIT and stops Axos in return for his freedom. The Doctor escapes and ends up tricking Axos, trapping them in a time-loop. The master escapes again, and reprograms the doctor's TARDIS to always return to earth.

The natural Axon form.
It just can't decide what it wants to be, where it's going, or what kind of story it wants to tell. The design is also incredibly inconsistent. The Axon costumes are so varying in quality. The Golden Axon masks are great but the jumpsuits are awful and you can so clearly see the zips at the back. The raw axon costumes are pretty good, but there's one that is so bad it looks like a sleeping bag, painted orange. The Axon ship is pretty terrible too, with it's tendrils and eyes. The music is quirky to the hilarious.

A Sleeping-bag Axon.

The saving graces of this somewhat messy story are, Roger Delgado's excellent performance and you have to love Pig Bin Josh, the random homeless man who, unfortunately for him, is the first man on the scene when the alien ship lands. 

Pig Bin Josh!
The argument I find the most interesting and indeed most currently relevant in this story is when the power-hungry Minister, Chinn says "I have a duty to my country-" and the Doctor replies, "Not the world?" 

Today in the U.K it's the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and I found myself in several conversations defending my lack of interest in the royal family and being called unpatriotic. By definition, patriotism is a devotion to one's country, and when harpooned with the usual arguments I agree with the Doctor. I am patriotic and therefore devoted to my world, not just my country. It's like Pablo Casals said, "The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?" Certainly the two are not mutually exclusive, and there are many things I love about my country, the royals are just not one of them. Many exemplify them as our national heritage, but surely in our modern age an elected official or a parliamentary system would be more effective and realistic than this outdated constitutional monarchy.

Jo does pretty much nothing in this one apart from scream and nearly get aged to death.
If you liked The Terror Of The Autons you might like The Claws of Axos as it's basically exactly the same story. An alien invasion aided by the Master, who at the last minute has a change of heart and helps the Doctor defeat the menace before escaping again. There are certainly some good bits, but for the most part this feels over extended and doesn't really have much to say for itself.

Join me next time for what I consider to be possibly the most underrated Doctor story ever, The Colony In Space.