Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Doctor Who "Black And White" Audio Review

Check out my review of the latest Big Finish, Doctor Who main range release "Black and White" featured over at BlogtorWho.

Friday, 24 August 2012

62: The Sea Devils - A Little Bit Of History Repeating

Written by: Malcolm Hulke.
Companions: The Doctor, Jo Grant.
Monsters/Aliens: Sea Devils, the Master.
Brief Synopsis: The Doctor and Jo visit a newly imprisoned Master, and learn that ships have been mysteriously disappearing at sea.
Rating: 7/10.

Okay, so it's a straight up sequel to The Silurians, does that mean that I can't love it? I can very vividly remember watching The Sea Devils as it went out on a repeat on UK Gold or some-such glorious channel that played Who during the wilderness years. I truly loved it, and waited on edge each week for the thrilling conclusion to each cliffhanger. Watching it now, without the innocence of youth I see its faults and the fact that it is almost a carbon copy of The Silurians. What I'm trying to say is, it's a hard one for me to review with out some bias, because it's here where nostalgia takes over, but I'll do my best.

The Sea Devils design was based on turtles.
This one came about when the 70's Who production team were discussing what monsters they could bring back for a new story. They decided the Silurians were worth a reprise, but chose to have a kind of underwater version of the creatures; that way they could have lots of exciting location work and possibly get Navy cooperation. The Silurians became Sea Devils, just because "it's a dramatic sounding name," according to script editor Terrance Dicks; although like so many Who monsters this isn't their real name. It's just something one rambling survivor calls them in passing, but in Doctor Who that's all it takes to name a monster for life.

Whilst on the subject of these creature's name let's try and get this straight. The first time we see them they're called Silurians, as they are supposedly a product of that era. The next time we meet them the Doctor disavows this first designation as an inaccurate estimation of the time period from which they would have originated (which is somewhat hilarious when you consider that he was the one to first coin that appellation). The Doctor corrects their name to Eocenes. However this has also been identified as a misnomer and an unlikely time period to have produced such a being. The confusion of the name of these earth reptiles has continued throughout their various appearances, culminating in their latest name Homo Reptillia. As far as I know no one has disapproved of this one yet, but give it time...

The Sonic Screwdriver makes a return, used here to detonate mines. 
From the way everyone's talking about the Silurians in the caves in Derbyshire, the events of The Silurians can't have taken place too long before those in The Sea Devils. So here we are probably less than a year later (if I get my UNIT dating correct) and history is repeating itself. The Sea Devils is penned by the excellent Malcolm Hulke (my favourite Who writer) and I just can't believe that a writer of his calibre would just regurgitate the same story without some meaning or additional point to be made.

The Master aids the Sea Devils.
So what can we make of this? The events are almost identical in both stories, the Doctor investigates an issue; power failures in a research facility or ships going missing at sea. Their cause turns out to be the Silurians/Sea Devils. Both times they have a humanoid helping them, first time it's Dr. Quinn, the next time the Master. Both boast an unsavoury Civil Servant type and those who only want to settle things with war. Both times the Doctor tries to form a peace between the creatures and the human race and fails. The only difference is that the first time it's the Brigadier who puts pay to the creatures by bombing their base and the second time it's the Doctor. So the question is: why repeat this formula so precisely? The only reason for this repetition can be to drive the point home, to show a lack of change or development. To show that although peace may not alway prevail it is always worth attempting and that if we don't learn from our mistakes in the past we will end up repeating them in the future.

The Doctor stopping for a snack during his duel with the Master.
There are some wonderful moments between the Doctor and the Master, including an impressive fencing duel and the tidbit of information that the Doctor and Master used to be very good friends at school together. Both Pertwee and Delgado are really on form and clearly having the best time.

The Master watches the Clangers.
There is some very impressive location work, which gives the whole story a very real feeling, the support from the Royal Navy is excellent, with real navy personelle, ships, big guns, and a diving pod all supplied for free. The navy were so keen to help they even rearranged operations to aid the filming. The iconic moment when the Sea Devils emerge from the sea will never leave me.

So there you have it, history repeating; for the Doctor, for the humans, for the Silurians/Sea Devils/Eocenes/Homo Reptillia/or whatever you want to call them and also for me and all other viewers. It may be a story that has been told before and that will be told again but The Sea Devils will always have a special place in my heart. It may not be as good as The Silurians but it has a classiness and a charisma that makes it mention-worthy all by itself.

Join me next time for a story of particular note, The Mutants.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Action Figure Report: Rory Williams

It was recently announced on the Forbidden Planet site that this long awaited Rory Williams action figure could be in your possession from the 5th October, but the image of the highly demanded figure of Mr. Pond has not received positive feedback thus far. Many fans across various Who internet forums have expressed disappointment and complained that the figurine bares little to no resemblance to the character played by Arthur Darvill. Judge for yourself...


Tuesday, 21 August 2012

61: The Curse Of Peladon - Doctor Who At Its Multifaceted Finest

Written by: Brian Hayles.
Companions: The Doctor, Jo Grant.
Monsters/Villains: Aggedor, Arcturus, Ice Warriors, Alpha Centauri.
Brief Synopsis: The Ghost of Aggedor threatens to stop the planet Peladon from joining the Galactic Federation.
Rating: 10/10.

Okay it's been nearly a month since I reported back on Day of The Daleks and I can't apologise enough. So much has been happening. I've started as a staff writer for The Gallifrey Times and a regular reviewer for Blogtor Who but now I'm back here to give you the skinny on an old favourite of mine, The Curse of Peladon.

The Curse of Peladon was the very first story in Doctor Who to be broadcast in a different order from which it was filmed, when it switched places with the previously produced story The Sea Devils. This doesn't sound like the most fascinating fact, but it meant a great deal to all the stories that would follow. Due to the narrow gap between recording and broadcast it had been impossible before this time to broadcast out of production order this extra time gave space for more editing, although you could argue that after this some of the immediacy of the series was gone.

The Ice Warriors are back!
The Curse of Peladon marks the return of writer Brian Hayles and his creations the Ice Warriors, this time appearing somewhat more civilised and in attendance on the planet Peladon to assess it's bid to join the Galactic Federation. Unlike many other Who stories this one doesn't feature just one bug-eyed monster, not even two, but three. Joining the martians we have delegates from Arcturus and Alpha Centauri. It's surprising that we don't get this sort of thing more often; whenever the Doctor arrives on a new planet  he rarely seems to meet more than one alien species. In this instance the Doctor crash lands  on a mountainside beneath a castle and is mistaken for the Chairman delegate from Earth introducing Jo Grant as HRH Princess Josephine of TARDIS.

We also see the return of second Doctor Patrick Troughton's son, David Troughton. This time giving a beautiful performance as the young King Peladon, struggling with this difficult decision that will effect all the people of his planet. From the get go people are murdered and the Doctor assumes that the Ice Warriors must be behind it.

The design is unusual but brilliant. Red and white hair and purple robes.
I have always been a big fan of "political Who," and this story certainly falls under that heading. The story is a then-topical, political allegory for the UK's accession to the EEC (European Economic Community). When The Curse of Peladon was aired in January 1972 the whole country were talking about PM Edward Heath's decision for the UK to join the common market. In this story Peladon stands in for the UK, with it's fears and hesitations to join the Galactic Federation (the EEC). Which countries Arcturus, Alpha Centauri and the Mars represent isn't made abundantly clear, although I like to think the Martians are Germany (previous enemies) Arcturus is France or maybe Italy and Alpha Centauri is Luxembourg or more likely Belgium (somewhere relatively small).

Brian Hayles.
Unlike another political Who writer Malcolm Hulke, who tended towards fairer representation of both sides of the argument, Brian Hayles clearly comes down on one side of things. He is clearly in favour of the join drawing connections between religion and tradition vesus science and progress.

However The Curse of Peladon isn't just a political intrigue story, it's also a murder mystery, a shakespearian tragedy, the personal story of a young King and a romance between Peladon and the Princess Josephine. In short it's a truly multifaceted story, which surely forms a large part of it's appeal.

Jo actually gets quite a bit to do in this one and certainly has a real baring on proceedings. Her romantic side story with the King is handled beautifully. I always wonder what might have happened had she decided to stay on Peladon.

When he accidentally sets foot in the Temple of Aggedor, the Doctor is forced to take part in trial by combat, and manages to best the King's champion, Grun. Delegate Arcturus shows his true colours when he tries to shoot the Doctor, but the Ice Warrior, Ssorg shoots Arcturus first. To the viewers surprise it turns out that it wasn't the Ice Warriors behind the attempts to stop Peladon joining the Galactic Federation. King Peladon's High Priest Hepesh was so afraid of change that he allied himself with the delegate from Arcturus; a planet poor in mineral wealth and hoping for a mining treaty, to stop Peladon's accession and take over the planet. 

Hepesh's men storm the castle defeating the royal guard and capturing the King. The Doctor wins the day when he comes across a rare specimen of Peladon's sacred beast Aggedor, and using hypnosis, empathy and a Venusian lullaby he calms the creature. It transpires that Hepesh previously found a lone  Aggedor beast and trained it to do his bidding. The Doctor produces the creature to the King as proof and it attacks and kills Hepesh. 

The oddly loveable beast, Aggedor.
The Curse of Peladon is a brilliant story because it is multifaceted, entertaining, mysterious, charming, dramatic, political, exciting and romantic. It's everything Doctor Who can be when it's at its very best. It has an excellent and memorable cast, it's overflowing with atmosphere and both Pertwee and Manning are at the top of their game. 

Join me next time for another old favourite, The Sea Devils.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Doctor Who Planet Of Giants DVD Review

Go on over to The Gallifrey Times and check out my review on the Planet Of Giants DVD which is released in the UK on 20th August, in Australia on 9th September and in the US on 11th September.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

BBC Confirm Genesis of "Doctor Who" Drama

The main players: Carole Ann Ford (Susan), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara), Verity Lambert (Prodcuer), William Russell (Ian), and William Hartnell (The Doctor).
There have been rumblings for sometime that Who writer Mark Gatiss has been writing a drama about the conception of Doctor Who to mark the show's 50th anniversary. This has now been officially confirmed by the BBC. The 90 minute drama will air on BBC 2 and is titled An Adventure in Space and Time and will tell the story of the genesis of the BBC sci-fi show in the early 1960s. The drama will cover the programme's first broadcast on 23 November 1963 with the four-part adventure An Unearthly Child and also William Hartnell's rise to fame.

Gatiss said:

"This is the story of how an unlikely set of brilliant people created a true Television original. And how an actor - William Hartnell - stereotyped in hard-man roles became a hero to millions of children. I've wanted to tell this story this for more years than I can remember! To make it happen for 'Doctor Who's 50th birthday is quite simply a dream come true".

Steven Moffat, Executive Producer, said:

“The story of Doctor Who is the story of television - so it's fitting in the anniversary year that we make our most important journey back in time to see how the TARDIS was launched.”

Also sure to feature: Warris Hussein (Director).
And Sidney Newman (Creator)
Further details about the production, including the casting, will be confirmed next year but I'm sure speculation will be rife.

The original cast in An Unearthly Child.

Friday, 3 August 2012