Wednesday, 30 January 2013

BFI Announce Guests For Tomb Of The Cybermen Showing

The BFI have just announced the following guests for their screening of The Tomb of The Cybermen: Companions to the 2nd Doctor: Anneke Wills (Polly) and Deborah Watling (Victoria) and, from Tomb of the Cybermen, Shirley Cooklin (Kaftan), Bernard Holley (Peter Haydon) and Michael Kilgarriff (Cyber Controller). Also in attendance is Michael Ferguson (director of The Seeds of Death, The Claws of Axos) and Patrick Troughton’s son and biographer, Michael Troughton.

Cast Announced For Doctor Who Drama An Adventure In Space and Time

It has just been announced that David Bradley (Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Doctor Who) is set to play the first ever Doctor, the iconic William Hartnell in the BBC Two drama ‘An Adventure in Space and Time’.

Jessica Raine

Brian Cox
‘An Adventure in Space and Time' will tell the story of the genesis of Doctor Who - first aired on 23 November 1963 - and the many personalities involved. The BBC’s Head of Drama Sydney Newman, credited with the creation of the show, will be portrayed by Brian Cox (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Identity) and the producer, Verity Lambert, by ‘Call the Midwife’ star Jessica Raine. The director of the first ever episode, ‘An Unearthly Child’, Waris Hussein, will be played by Sacha Dhawan (History Boys, Last Tango In Halifax).

Sacha Dhawan here meeting Waris Hussein himself.
Commenting on his upcoming role, David Bradley, said:
“I’m absolutely thrilled. I first heard about this role from Mark [Gatiss] while watching the Diamond Jubilee flotilla from the roof of the National Theatre. When he asked if I would be interested, I almost bit his hand off! Mark has written such a wonderful script not only about the birth of a cultural phenomenon, but a moment in television’s history. William Hartnell was one of the finest character actors of our time and as a fan I want to make sure that I do him justice. I’m so looking forward to getting started.”

The 90-minute BBC Wales produced drama is written by Mark Gatiss who will also act as executive producer alongside Steven Moffat and Caroline Skinner.

Mark Gatiss, executive producer and writer, said:
“What a cast! I'm utterly delighted that everyone's favourite Time Lord will be in such brilliant and stellar company. We have a terrific team who can't wait to tell the fascinating and surprising story of how the Doctor began his journey through Space and Time.”

Sacha Dhawan with Mark Gatiss and Waris Hussein.
Filming begins at the beginning of February at Television Centre before moving to Wimbledon Studios. It is produced by Matt Strevens (Misfits, Skins) and directed by Terry McDonough (Breaking Bad, The Street).

The casting for William Russell (who played Ian Chesterton), Jaqueline Hill (who played Barbara Wright) and Carole Ann Ford (who played Susan Foreman) has yet to be announced.


Friday, 18 January 2013

66: Carnival Of Monsters - An Early Metaphor For The Voyeurism Of Television

Written by: Robert Holmes.
Companions: The Doctor, Jo Grant.
Monsters/Villains: Drashigs, Plesiosaurus.
Brief Synopsis: The TARDIS lands aboard the SS Bernice a cargo ship in the 1926 only to realise they're not quite where they thought they were.
Rating: 8/10.

You can really tell this is written by Robert Holmes. It's a great idea and a great piece of story telling and although Barry Letts hasn't done the best job with the direction, the characters are fully fleshed out and entirely three dimensional. The aims of the story are clearly handled and very ahead of their time.

There are several wonderful levels of deception to be found in this story's first episode. A newly freed Doctor wants to take Jo to one of his favourite planets and thusly sets the TARDIS coordinates to Metabelis III, the famous blue planet of the Acteon Galaxy. Only when the time-ship lands the Doctor and Jo find themselves aboard the SS Bernice, a cargo ship crossing the Indian Ocean in 1926; or so they think. After stealthily exploring the ship they are shocked to see Harry Sullivan!?

Ian Marter as John Andrews not Harry Sullivan.
It's Ian Marter who plays Harry! Of course he isn't Harry at this point, he's playing a character called John Andrews, but he'll go on to be Tom Bakers Doctor's assistant in a few years time. What the Doctor and Jo are actually shocked to see in the ocean is a massive Plesiosaurus from the early Jurassic period. Something fishy is going on here, or should I say dinosaur-y.

Meanwhile we meet three officials of the overly-disease-conscious planet Inter Minor. Pletrac, Kalik and Orum are welcoming the first alien vistors to their planet.

Kalik (played by Michael Wisher), Pletrac (played by
Peter Halliday) and Orum (played by Terence Lodge).
These visitors are Lurmans, a pair of intergalactic travelling players, Vorg and Shirna. But they're not alone they've brought the Scope. The Miniscope is a sort of sideshow attraction which displays the lives of creatures for entertainment. Sounds like a TV. The difference is the creatures are actually miniaturised and kept in secure micro-environments within the device itself. The machine boasts many creatures including, tellurians (humans), Ogrons and Cybermen; who here make their only on screen appearance in whole of the Pertwee Era.

Upon further inspection Jo and the Doctor learn that they aren't on a ship at all and head for the TARDIS, but someone gets there before them.

A Monty Pythonesque cliffhanger. 
The rest of the adventure sees the Doctor and Jo meet the monstrous Drashigs and fight to escape the Scope and return to regular size.

The Drashigs are impressive creatures. They were mad from
the skulls of Dogs to make them look more fearsome and realistic.
The costumes of this one aren't the best. Vorg and Shirna's are particularly unusual.

In 2010 when the stage show Doctor Who Live: The Monsters Are Coming needed inspiration for it's story, Steven Moffat, Will Brenton and Gareth Roberts turned back to The Carnival of Monsters. The show featured prerecorded material by Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, and on stage appearances by many Who monsters and Nigel Planer as Vorgenson son of Vorg, who has created a similar machine called the Minimiser. This transpires to have been a trap set by the Daleks to capture the Doctor.

Nigel Planer as Vorg's son Vorgenson.
The Drashigs also inspired one of my very favourite pieces of Doctor Who Merchandise, the Drashig hand puppet!

What a brilliant idea this story was and ahead of it's time! A story about people being trapped inside a machine for giving entertainment. The original title for the story was Peepshow, which works as a much clearer indicator of the story's true intentions as an early metaphor for the voyeurism of television. The Miniscope takes television to an extreme as we watch real people strive and suffer for mere amusement. It's amazing how ahead Robert Holmes was of his time. He preempted reality TV by two decades. The character of Vorg even acts as a kind of malevolent producer/puppeteer as he adjusts a dial which amplifies the "specimen's" hostility to increase the viewers amusement. The Doctor mentions his part in convincing the Time Lords to ban Miniscopes claiming that they were an insult to sentient life. Despite the Time Lords non-intervention policy the Doctor was successful.

Ooh Doctor, you've changed your tune!
Holmes could clearly see the negative potential that television could have and The Carnival of Monsters is a direct product of that. The Miniscope is really not a millions miles away from Big Brother, I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here or the X-Factor. If only we could do what the Doctor did and get the High Council of Time Lords to ban it!

Carnival of Monsters is leagues ahead of it's time. It's a classy, classic and (apart from the costumes) timeless story.

Join me next time for the epic space opera: The Frontier In Space.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

65: The Three Doctors - Certainly A Celebration

Written by: Bob Baker and Dave Martin.
Companions: The Doctor, The Doctor, The Doctor, Jo Grant, Brigadier, Sergeant Benton.
Monsters/Villains: Omega, Jell guards, Time Lords.
Brief Synopsis: The Time Lords send the First and Second incarnations of the Doctor to aid the Third in stopping the infamous time lord Omega from causing universal destruction.
Rating: 4.5/10.

So here we are in the 50th anniversary year and I'm looking back to 1973 and the 10th Anniversary story, The Three Doctors. This one isn't the best, but it's certainly a celebration; it almost feels like a party. The Three Doctors boasts many impressive traits: there's yet another new TARDIS interior redesign, we're introduced to the Time Lord figure Omega, we learn a lot more about the Time Lords and their origins, we see the end of the third Doctor's exile to earth, but most excitingly, and as the title suggests The Three Doctors is the first multi-Doctor story. Which if you hadn't worked it out means, in this case: three incarnations of the Doctor all in one place and one time.

Unfortunately like most multi-Doctor stories, we don't quite get what's promised by the title; this one is more 'The Two Doctors.' Fans we're thrilled to see the return of Patrick Troughton to his role as the Second Doctor, and yes William Hartnell does make an appearance but only a disembodied one on a screen in the TARDIS.

The Time Lords with their weird circular note paper.
The Doctor should never meet another incarnation of himself as one of the Time Lords in this story remarks, "it goes against the first law of time!" So what disaster exactly would deem this extreme transgression necessary? Here is where the story gets interesting: We learn that the way that the Time Lords gained their mastery of time was owing to the efforts of Omega. 

Omega's costume is bad ass.
Omega was a steller engineer who caused a star to go super nova which enabled the Time Lords to harness enough energy to achieve time travel. Omega was believed dead but in actuality was pulled through the black hole created by the super nova where we lived as lord of the world of antimatter. The Time Lords call on three incarnations of the Doctor when Omega drains their power and threatens to destroy the universe. Fair enough.

Troughton and Pertwee. Brilliant!
So we get to see Pertwee and Troughton interact. Which is wonderful. They fight and bicker and work excellently as a comic duo. I can't help but wonder though: wouldn't you be more upset to know that at some point your version of yourself is going to effectively die and you'll be another person? Troughton doesn't even seem to consider it. The bickering is sorted out when the First Doctor gets on the scene, well sort of...

RIP William Hartnell.
Sadly this story would mark William Hartnell's last appearance as the Doctor and his final ever performance as an actor before his death in 1975. Hartnell was too ill to play a more active role in the story. Instead his scenes were filmed separately while he read his lines from cue cards. The script was rewritten with the explanation that the First Doctor was stuck in a "time eddy" due to the power drain caused by Omega.

I can't help but question: how ambiguous is the Time Lord's explanation of the 'power loss?' "Cosmic energy is being drained away, leaving the Time Travel facility in danger. Unless the energy losses can be stopped the whole fabric of space time will be destroyed." Ummm, why? Also why does it have to be the Doctor(s) who come to the Time Lords aid? Because: "No one [else] can be spared. Everyone is needed to combat the energy losses." Oh, okay! That makes sense...

These are called Gell Guards. I have no idea why.
UNIT HQ is assaulted by monsters that look like ear wax. Eventually The Doctor, the Doctor, Jo, the Brigadier, Benton, Bessie, the TARDIS and UNIT HQ itself all end up in the universe of antimatter, dragged there by some matter/antimatter-combo-time-bridge-organism-thing. Each one undergoing a conversion process allowing them to survive in the anti-matter world, which, of course, is a quarry! It feels like the regulars have gone on holiday, but they let Benton make the reservations. 

"I'm fairly sure that's Cromer."
The Doctor is brought before Omega, whom he respects and reveres, and knows from legend. Omega's reason for bringing the Doctor to his domain is simple. Someone must remain there in order to maintain the universe of antimatter or he cannot leave so he wants the Doctor to take his place.

Omega/Doctor silent disco, sexual wrestling match?
Jo then comes up with their escape plan. The Doctors' combined wills are greater than that of Omega so they could overpower him. Then there is this mega weird silent, black lit, sexual disco wrestling match between Pertwee and the dark side of Omega's mind. It's p-retty strange. The Doctor loses and agrees to take Omega's place, until he learns quite shockingly that underneath Omega's protective clothing there is literally nothing left of him. He is only alive because he wills it so.

The day is saved in a rather odd way. The whole fabric of space time is saved by a recorder. The recorder was inside the forcefield generator on the TARDIS and wasn't processed for the anti-matter world. Omega knocks it out of the Doctor's hands, the recorder falls out of the generator and all the matter and anti-matter atoms combine and annihilate everything.

Everyone is returned to their proper times and place and the epilogue concludes with the Time Lords sending the Doctor a new dematerialisation circuit and restoring his knowledge of time travel which neatly brings to an end the three year story arc of his exile to earth.

This is all well and good, but I can't help but feel like nothing has really happened. The Doctor or even Doctors don't save the day, it's all a bit of a fluke. It's been great learning more about the Time Lords and their sordid beginnings, and getting to see Troughton and Hartnell again, but I can't help but feel in all this jubilation someone forgot to write an actual story. It's a great idea to bring all the Doctors together in a story, but if we go by later examples one can't help but wonder if this orgy of Doctors is somewhat of a poisoned chalice? However, whatever you may think of multi-doctor stories, it can't be denied that The Three Doctors is certainly a celebration.

I wonder if we'll see a multi-Doctor story for the 50th Anniversary and if it'll be any good if we do... Also don't forget to check out my 2 year Bloggiversary Giveaway! There are some great prizes up for grabs. 

Join me next time for the rather wonderful story, The Carnival of Monsters.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

BFI: William Hartnell "An Unearthly Child" Screening

Jessica Carney, Donald Tosh, Waris Hussein, host,
William Russell, Carole Ann Ford & Jeremy Young.
I had an absolutely marvelous time at the screening of An Unearthly Child at the BFI today, for the first of 11 events (1 for each Doctor) set for this year to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who.

There were a number of brilliant guests including: Waris Hussein (Director); Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman); William Russell (Ian Chesterton); Jeremy Young (Kal the Caveman); Mark Gatiss; Donald Tosh (Hartnell Era Script Editor); Brian Hodgson (Radiophonic Workshop, creator of the TARDIS sound effect); Clive Doig (Vision Mixer) and Jessica Carney (William Hartnell’s grand-daughter and biographer).

It was great to see An Unearthly Child on the big screen and with an audience, but for me finally getting to meet William Russell and Carole Ann Ford in the flesh was the biggest highlight.

The next event to celebrate Patrick Troughton will take place on February 9th. The event is already sold out, but for those of you who snapped up some tickets, I'll see you there.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

BFI Announce Guests for Unearthly Child Screening

The BFI have finally announced their guests for this Saturday's screening of An Unearthly Child; the William Hartnell story chosen to kick off the 50th Anniversary celebrations, and it's a very impressive gathering.

The guests include: Waris Hussein (Director); Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman); William Russell (Ian Chesterton); Jeremy Young (Kal the Caveman); Mark Gatiss; Donald Tosh (Script Editor); Brian Hodgson (Radiophonic Workshop); Clive Doig (Vision Mixer) and Jessica Carney (William Hartnell’s grand-daughter and biographer).

I'm going and I can't wait. Anyone else going?