Saturday, 28 July 2012

Doctor Who Segment Cut From Olympic Opening Ceremony

According to this leaked playlist for the Olympic Opening Ceremony, reported in the Telegraph, Ron Grainer's original Doctor Who Theme was meant to be part of the opening ceremony. Along with segments based on Coronation Street and Monty Python, the Doctor Who section was cut due to time constraints. The vworp vworp sound of the TARDIS was included in the middle of a Queen song, but the rest of the Doctor Who section was unfortunately lost in the annals of time. It's shame this was cut, but that aside the Ceremony was incredible.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

RIP Mary Tamm

Mary Tamm 1950-2012.
I am very sad to announce that Mary Tamm has died aged 62. The actress, who was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire, fought a long battle with cancer and died in hospital in London. Tamm appeared as Tom Baker's Doctor's companion, Romana in Doctor Who for one season in 1978-9. She leaves behind husband Marcus Ringrose, daughter Lauren and seven-year-old grandson Max.

Her agent Barry Langford revealed that Tamm had been saddened by the recent deaths of contemporaries Elisabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who, and Angharad Rees, who died last weekend.
He said: "All of these people who she knew were going."
This is sadly true as we add Mary Tamm, to the other we have lost in the past few years including: Nicholas Courtney, Elisabeth Sladen, Philip Madoc and Caroline John. As all of these wonderful performers, Mary Tamm will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

60: Day Of The Daleks - A Surprisingly Unusual Time Travel Plot

Written by: Louis Marks.
Companions: The Doctor, Jo Grant, Brigadier, Captain Mike Yates, Sergeant Benton.
Monsters/Villains: The Daleks, Ogrons.
Brief Synopsis: Freedom fighters from the future attempt to thwart a Dalek invasion by coming back in time to assassinate a delegate at the second World Peace Conference.
Rating: 8/10.

Hello wonderful blogtastics, I can only apologise for my absence of late, I've been kept busy with various other projects, auditions and trying to write a musical, but I am back with a vengeance to give you a full report on the first episode of Jon Pertwee's third season and the ninth overall, The Day of The Daleks. Since Dalek creator Terry Nation, was unavailable to write this one we welcome back Louis Marks who wrote the Hartnell story Planet of Giants, and would go on to write two Tom Baker stories: Planet of Evil and The Masque of Mandragora. The script that had originally been submitted wasn't called Day of The Daleks and didn't actually feature the intergalacticly infamous pepper-pots at all. It was called The Ghost Hunters and featured a fairly nondescript group of alien oppressors. Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts liked the story and decided to develop it, substituting it's extraterrestrials for the Daleks, who hadn't been seen for five whole years after being destroyed (for good, supposedly) in the Patrick Troughton story, The Evil of The Daleks.

Radio Times cover.
They pulled out all the stops, including a specially shot television trailer, an illustrated Radio Times cover, and even a contest to win your own Dalek. In 1972 this was Event TV and it clearly paid off as the story received 10.2 million viewers. The Daleks return brought in the viewers and the story was excellent, if flatly directed, but what of the Daleks themselves? They spend most of their time in a control room, barking orders, and then try to invade earth with just three Daleks.

The most interesting part of The Day of The Daleks is it's surprisingly unusual plot that centres around time travel. Uncannily similar to James Cameron's motion picture 'The Terminator' (1984), the story centres around a small group of Guerillas from the future who time-travel to the present day to avert the domination of a totalitarian dictatorship, but end up causing the very events they set out to prevent. In Cameron's case it's Skynet, in the Doctor's it's the Daleks. 

It's the most interesting part of this story because surprisingly Doctor Who doesn't do it very often. You'd think in a series where the main premise centres around a man who can travel in time and space, you'd get this sort of thing all the time, but it's surprisingly rare.

The Doctor with the Guerillas, Boaz and Anat.
The story also has a political connection. The Guerillas Target is Sir Reginald Styles who is on a mission of peace. He is trying to coax the Chinese to attend the Second World peace conference (The first having taken place in The Mind of Evil) and prevent the escalation of war. This is a direct reference to the Sino-Russian border conflicts of 1969 which almost spiraled into a nuclear strike on China by the USSR. Styles's last attempt to broker peace by flying to Peking is also an analogue to the February 1972 visit of Richard Nixon to China that would eventually establish the future Washington–Beijing–Moscow diplomatic relationship. It is also interesting to see that when the story starts we are meant to believe that the Guerillas are "the baddies," but they turn out to be "the goodies." It forces an interesting notion, that the characterisation of good or bad, of terrorist of freedom fighter is totally in the eye of the beholder.

The Daleks have got themselves a police force, the Ogrons.
Rather shockingly the Doctor acts in a very uncharacteristic way in this story. He drinks wine, something we rarely see him do, but much worse than that, he kills two Ogrons. I'm sure the script suggested that he was defending himself but in actuality he seems to calculatedly kill two Ogrons in cold blood. This is certainly one of those moments, much like Hartnell's 'I'm gonna bludgeon this guy with a rock,' moment, where I initiate my selective memory.

"Oh no, someones shot him. Me? No it wasn't me!"
Episode Four was originally to have featured a confrontation between the Doctor and the Daleks, in which the Daleks explain how they destroyed those of their number who were infused with the Human Factor in the events seen in The Evil of the Daleks, and then turned their attention to conquering Earth by means of time travel. This scene was actually recorded but had to be cut at the editing stage for timing reasons. What I would give to see that...

Aubrey Woods gives a stage-like, exaggerated yet excellent
performance as the Dalek's Human Controller subordinate.
He's also really shiny and wears silver nail polish.
The Guerillas try to assassinate Sir Reginald Styles as they believe his death will stop the Daleks future domination of earth, but it is his death that would in fact be the cause. However we don't get this temporal paradox fully explained until an expositional scene in the last episode of the story. In the end the Doctor gets Styles to safety and one of the Guerillas sacrifices himself to destroy the invading Daleks.

Just three??
The story's most infamous moment is when the Daleks have followed the Doctor back to present day and along with a handful of ambling Ogrons attempt to invade earth with just three Daleks. This issue along with many others including, the somewhat stilted Dalek voices, lack of future earth imagery and sometimes longwinded editing has been adressed by Steve Broster in a special edition included on the official DVD release. The special edition includes, new effects shots, extra material including a vastly larger Dalek invasion force and new Dalek voices supplied by Nicholas Briggs. I was lucky enough to attend the first screening. It's an excellent piece of work and really brings the story bang up to date.

CONTROLLER: Where there any complications?
OGRON: No complications!
Without a doubt, one of my all time favourite moments in Doctor Who takes place in this story. I like it for all the wrong reasons. It's the "No complications" line. There are two extra actors who are playing the Ogrons reporting to the Controller on their mission to kill one of the Guerillas. One explains they were successful in his best attempt at how an Ogron might speak. When the controller asks, where there any complications the first Ogron's counterpart replies just a little too abruptly in a comparatively normal and unaffected voice, "No complications." It's hilariously bad and that's why I love it. 

All in all the story is incredibly strong, but it is let down by incredibly poor direction. Steve Broster makes up for some of this in his wonderful special edition, but it's still just a little under par. The prototype 'Terminator' story is excellent, and the political parallells to the story's creation are handled tastefully but the actual return of the Daleks seems a little stilted and inanimate.

Join me next time for the return of the Ice Warriors in The Curse of Peladon.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

SEASON 7 SPOILERS: New DW Toy Descriptions Contain Possible Season 7 Spoilers

Please don't read this if you don't want any of Season 7 spoiled!

Two new Doctor Who toy accessories' descriptions appear to contain massive spoilers for large parts of Season 7. This isn't the first time Doctor Who action figures have spoiled plot points or season revelations. When Davros returned we already knew because his action figure was announced too early. This first one contains spoilers for the video game: The Eternity Clock. Beyond that is an item with Season 7 spoilers!

First up we have the Trans-Temporal Sonic Screwdriver which carries this description: 

'With the TARDIS trapped on Earth in a Trans-temporal schism, the Doctor find himself at the centre of four time zones. As with each previous time the TARDIS generates a new sonic screwdriver for the Doctor but this time it is created in the style of each time zone, Elizabethan, Victorian, Present Day and Future London. With additional features including a ‘wood’ setting, the Doctor must try and free the TARDIS before time runs out. Replica sonic screwdriver with 8 new sound effects.'

This info suggests many revelations: Multiple Doctors (and sonics), split through four time zones and the TARDIS is trapped on Earth again, which hasn't happened since Pertwee's tenure as Doctor, and also finally a 'wood' setting! This is the sonic screwdriver from the PS3 PSVITA and PC game, The Eternity Clock (thanks to Quazz on Reddit). So, as it turns out no Season 7 spoilers here. It's a shame as the Trans-Temporal Schism could certainly have been used as a plot device to bring back past Doctors for the 50th Anniversary.

Then we have the considerably more interesting Q.L.A Anti-Time Device which lends us the following:

'After the Doctor disappeared, the Cybermen and Daleks went to war across the universe. And on each world they destroyed they left in their wake, Stone Angels, picking over the dead and dying. But the Cleric army fought back and scoured the dead worlds left after the wars, looking for the wreckage of Daleks, Cybermen, and broken Angels to create a hugely powerful ‘anti-time’ device. A device part Dalek, part Cyber technology and used the Quantum signature from the Angel to trigger a Gateway to pull enemies into the time Vortex…. Erasing them from Time completely. This Dalek & Cyberman Hybrid Technology Unit includes four play modes: Dalek, Cyberman, Angel & multi technology. Includes speech, sounds and light FX. Send your enemies into the Time Vortex!'

This suggests that in the Doctor's absence, the Cybermen and Daleks have been at war or possibly joined together to conquer the universe. The Weeping Angels have apparently been left as scavengers on the worlds the Daleks and Cybermen have destroyed. The Cleric army presumably refers to the same army we saw in The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone and A Good Man Goes To War. Their army has created a device, part Dalek (the eye piece) and part Cyberman (head handle bars) and using the Angel's quantum signature (the stone finger of a Angel) to send their enemies into the time vortex, erasing them from time. The device possibly has different setting depending on the enemy.

This description is certainly incredibly spoilerific, which does annoy, but I must say it all sounds very promising, if it is indeed related to season 7. I'm now even more excited about the Doctor's triumphant return to our screens in September.

Action Figure Report: Talking Daleks

Announced today, presumable in connection with the upcoming Dalek-fest season opener: Asylum of The Daleks, are six talking Daleks from the following stories: Dalek (2005), Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964), Power of the Daleks (1966), Revelation of the Daleks (1985), Planet of the Daleks (1973) and Death to the Daleks (1974). Each Dalek includes sound FX and speech by era! They are currently expected for release on 22 August.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Action Figure Report: 'Victory of the Daleks' Collectors' Set

Underground Toys have just revealed the first images of their latest ComicCon exclusive, the 'Victory of the Daleks' Collectors' Set. The set includes an Ian McNeice Winston Churchill figure(with Hat and Glasses), an Ironside Dalek with Tea Tray, and three War Phone accessories. The set will be available at Paris Comic Con booth DB10 from 5th to 8th July and San Diego Comic Con booth 3751 from 11th to 15th July! 

Sunday, 1 July 2012

59: The Dæmons - Undeserving Of Its "Cult" Reputation?

Written by: Guy Leopold (Robert Sloman & Barry Letts)
Companions: The Doctor, Jo Grant, Brigadier, Captain Yates, Sergeant Benton.
Monsters/Villains: The Master, Azal, Bok.
Brief Synopsis: The Master, posing as a rural vicar, summons a cloven-hoofed demon in a church basement.
Rating: 6/10.

So this one has quite a reputation. It's a 'fan favourite,' or least that's always been my understanding. But who actually cites The Dæmons as their dearest Doctor Who story and why? The story clearly relies quite heavily on referencing a sort of British Hammer Horror kind of genre and the story itself is rather unsubtly lifted from Quatermass and the Pit. The rather charming British Horror style certainly adds an atmosphere to the story but the stories are glaringly similar. Both utilise the idea that devils and demons may be a race memory of horned aliens who conducted a eugenics experiment on early humans. The village of Devil's End is essentially the same as Hobb's Lane, the fictitious London setting of the earlier story; Hob being an old name for the Devil. Even the use of iron to hold both Azal and Bok at bay is an old folk superstition that is also referred to in the Quatermass story.

It's clear to see why this story is perhaps wrongly held in such high regard. It's got all the elements that epitomizes this era of Doctor Who: the UNIT 'family,' the Master, a memorable location, a strong supporting cast and some good 'monsters' with the Dæmon Azal and the animated stone gargoyle Bok. The Dæmons is a well produced story as well and really looks great, with the possible exception of Azal, whose CSO growth falls down the wrong side of impressive, but the plot just isn't very good.

There are some odd holes in the story line. When Azal descends on Devil's End, why does he create the heat barrier as a kind of force field around the village? He's an incredibly powerful being, that can destroy with a look, the last of a race that has molded mankind for 100,00 years, he seems hardly the type who needs to hide away. Also the Dæmons' ability to shrink and enlarge objects, particularly shrinking their spaceships. Surely it would make more sense to save on resources, build small ships and then shrink themselves to fit.

The Master, rocking out in the cavern.
Roger Delgado is at the high of brilliance as the Master, excelling as both the Minister, Mr. Magister and in his true colours, leading the cult in his red robes. He achieves a popularity that might even be said to rival the Doctor; even being threatened in an end of episode cliffhanger. 

Damaris Hayman is perfect as Miss Hawthorne.
The theme of Science versus Magic, is a good touch, but perhaps comes down a little too firmly on the side of science, stating that something should never be assumed to be 'magic' just because the explanation for it is not immediately apparent. Damaris Hayman does an excellent turn as the self professed white witch, Miss. Hawthorne. The Doctor is rather unusually non-accepting of Hawthorne's magic beliefs. In a few scenes the Doctor is uncharacteristically presented as a bit of a patronising, know-it-all. This character nuance is probably intended to convey his irritation at being exiled on one planet, but it results in rendering him as rather unlikeable, in contrast to his usual charming and comforting self.

Azal, played by Stephen Thorne.
The back-story of the Dæmons from the planet Dæmos is impressively fleshed out. Azal is the last of his race. The Dæmons came to Earth 100,000 years ago to engineer mankind's genetic development. They helped Homo Sapiens kick out Neanderthal Man and inspired the Greek civilisation, the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. Azal says "my race destroys its failures," even claiming the responsibility for the destruction of Atlantis; something which was explained in The Underwater Menace and would go on to be touched on yet again at the end of this very season in The Time Monster.

Two of 'The Headington Quarrymen" from Oxford
hold the Doctor prisoner.
The inclusion of evil demonic Morris Dancers and an ominous May Pole are strokes of genius. It's Doctor Who taking something ordinary and turning it against you. It's great and the morris dancers are a troupe based in Oxford, which is also where I hale from. For those of you who don't know, a May Pole is a mast with multiple thin strands of multicoloured material attached at the top. In a rather odd May day tradition (that I unfortunately had to take part in at school) a group of people each take up a strand and perform a sort of intricate dance, entwining the various strands, for some unknown reason that must be demonic in nature.

The Doctor tied to a May Pole.
Yates and Benton in their civvies flying a helicopter.
Yates and Benton get some good action sequences and more to do than usual and the Brigadier utters his perhaps most infamous order to despatch the Gargoyle statue creature Bok: "Chap with the wings there, Five Rounds Rapid"

Without a doubt the weakest part of the whole story is the ending. The Doctor has refused Azal's offer to give him his almighty power. Azal decides to imbue the Master instead, and is about to kill the Doctor when Jo steps in front of him, offering herself in his place, and Azal just goes mental. This act of self-sacrifice doesn't make sense to him and he just dies taking a model-shot of the village church out with him. So technically this one concludes with Jo committing the accidental genocide of the Dæmon race, who helped mankind progress and develop. Oops! Maybe that's why the world is on a decline?

Azal "blows a fuse."
The execution of this denouement is laughable. It feels so rushed and spoils all of the good stuff that has gone before. The Master is taken prisoner and we get a funny little coda, with the Doctor, Jo, Benton and Miss. Hawthorne May pole dancing. While Yates quips: "Fancy a dance Brigadier?" To which the Brig replies, "I'd rather have a pint."

The elements are all there and it's certainly well produced, but with the plot holes, "borrowed" story line, uncharacteristically in-compassionate Doctor and rushed ending it just doesn't quite do it for me. There is certainly a lot there to love about The Dæmons, but I'm still not convinced that it deserves it's  reputed cult status.

And so we've reached the end of Season Eight. The season in which we saw the introduction of the Doctor's arch-nemesis, the Master and the return of the Autons. We met an evil mind Parasite, suffered the not so impressive Axons, witnessed the struggle of the miners and the colonists and finally, met the Devil, of sorts. We lost a companion and gained one. My favourite story in this season has to be Colony In Space, but The Mind of Evil is a close runner-up. My least favourite is The Claws of Axos. Out of a possible 50 points I scored Season Eight 32/50. Giving it an average of 64/100. It was a fairly strong season let down by one or two weaker stories.

Join me next time for the start of Season Nine and a long awaited return in Day Of The Daleks.