Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror review

Series 12 Episode 4 19/01/20. Doctor Who stories set in the past tend to work better when they focus on a lesser known individual rather than renowned figures like Dickens or Queen Elisabeth as they can avoid the caricature and instead provide an insight into the person. Thus it proves in the tongue twistingly titled `Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror`. It is surprising he’s never been the subject of an episode before as his work is very much the kind of thing the Doctor would- and does- admire while Victorian machinery always looks great on tv.  The pioneer of many of the innovations we take for granted today comes under the spotlight in a fast moving adventure that includes the educational content that has made a return under Chris Chibnall’’s stewardship.  Unlike some of this Doctors’ previous lectures though this is an interesting topic.

Spoilers past this point


Spearhead from Space Episode 3

Season 7 @50. Meg Seeley is not be trifled with. While earlier in this episode Ransome runs in total terror from an Auton, Meg’s reaction to our plastic pal’s incursion is to reach for her shotgun and let loose both barrels. Never mind UNIT, they should send her down to Auto Plastics to sort the situation out. Even the Auton, which happily fired at Ransome, doesn’t kill Meg on the spot as it could easily do but seems to just knock her over. On the upside, her husband’s light fingered tendencies mean their cottage will soon have a full stock of replacement items for all the damaged furniture. A curious collection of scenes, episode 3 confirms the story’s slender narrative has room to spare as you realise that most of the well remembered moments are actually in the other episodes.


Orphan 55 review

Series 12 Episode 3 12/01/20
Ed Hime’s debut story `It Takes You Away` was a curveball in an otherwise straightforward series so its surprising to find his sophomore offering sticking to a more familiar set up. `Orphan 55` is fast, sometimes too fast, with excellent visuals and becomes more interesting as it goes along though the guest characters don’t get enough of an opportunity to shine. Neither classic nor clunker it is a good, solid Doctor Who story that leaves the viewer with something to think about at the end. It feels both very Now yet also quite traditionally Doctor Who. The fact that it seems to have generated more chatter and differing opinions than `Spyfall` suggests it may be a story that grows in reputation over the years.
Spoilers after this point 



Spearhead from Space Episode 2

Season 7 @50.  This episode is home to some of the most filmic direction original Doctor Who ever staged. Derek Martinus never misses an opportunity to exert maximum big screen camerawork when he can utilising the generous locations and accentuating the creepiness of the Autons. Shots zoom in and out at the Auton scout as it seeks the signal. There is an almost cartoon style impact to these flourishes most noticeably in the final shot of a terrified Ransome. It is rare to end an episode with someone other than either the Doctor or companion in danger and odd too that we’ve already seen an Auton in action so we know what he doesn’t. 


Spyfall Part 2

Series 12 Episode 2 05/01/20
After such an action packed romp as the first episode there was inevitably going to be a change of pace this time and it is to introduce surprising new elements to an already packed narrative. Yet with another hour’s running time this plays out very well and incorporates some unexpected developments and a powerful climax that has implications for the rest of this series and beyond. More than anything Chris Chibnall has now provided a story that can match the best of both his predecessors.
Spoilers beyond this point


Spearhead from Space Episode 1

Season 7@50. 
Remarkably it is fifty years – half a century! -since Jon Pertwee debuted on screen as the Doctor. A new Doctor is a tricky proposition for which there are two ways to go. One is to make them totally eccentric and over the top, the other is to have them largely sleeping establishing the other characters before the Doctor wakes largely fully formed. Given that the season 7 team had to establish a new format they wisely plumped for the latter. It does mean that Jon Pertwee has little screen time save for scrambling about trying to find his shoes though when he does get the key hidden in them there’s definitely a Troughtonesque look on his face. Other than that we don’t really get much chance to say whether we like the new Doctor or not. 


Spyfall Part 1

Season 12 Episode 1 01/01/20. "Everything you think you know is a lie.” This teasing line from an energetically propelled episode just about sums up the world today and if real life is crazy then surely fiction has to be crazier? This is a pitch- and a strong one too- to be a classic Doctor Who story and while we’ll have to see part 2 before we know the signs are good. It almost feels like the Chris Chibnall era starts here! It is far and away the best episode of his stewardship and also his best script for the series. After a tentative yet not always thrilling debut season (which nonetheless had its moments) last year’s special `Resolution` seemed to finally get the engine running albeit cautiously. In the twelve months since something strong must have been in the tea because `Spyfall` Part 1 is an outrageously bold attempt to re-connect those adventure synapses lying dormant since, yes, `The End of Time`. Modern Doctor Who really does work when you loosen the atmosphere a bit, go with a big concept that can be summed up in one sentence and then shove in a surprise for longer term fans. The results are an exhilarating opening episode.
Spoilers aplenty past here..


The Deadly Assassin@43

One of the most iconic, divisive stories in the Doctor Who canon, `The Deadly Assassin` comes loaded with baggage. With no companion and set entirely on Gallifrey it broke the narrative mould, especially the surreal episode 3, while certain scenes caused such strong controversy that the future direction of the series was affected. Fans at the time pilloried it for supposedly ruining the Time Lord mystique if not the wider mystery of the central character. Yet this is not the whole picture. The story most resembles one of the BBC’s classic period dramas housing a gaggle of verbose eccentrics dressed in colourful finery, steeped in procedure and tradition. They shuffle through the rituals as they always have and the Panopticon even has a church organ plus a wonderfully applied echo to emphasise its cathedral like status. If Spandrell had to catch a coach and horses to go see Engin it wouldn’t look out of place! Doctor Who of this era was always theatrical and populated by larger than life characters but `The Deadly Assassin` is the chance to do this on the Doctor’s home world. It may present a futuristic exterior but this is Victorian political melodrama of the most enjoyable kind. 


Fan Scene CT 1983 #4

October introduces us to The Sixth Doctor, 40 year old Colin Baker and the lead story has a brief resume noting he’s the first actor to play the Doctor who had previously had a role in the series. There’s nothing especially unusual in this announcement which comes accompanied by a shot from the official photocall though it’s impossible not to think of what happened next. As often is the case, the actor looks Doctorly enough in what he was wearing that day but, oh no, someone had to conjure up a costume! That’s all in the future in October 1983 though. Other news this month includes news of the theft of an art display from the Blackpool exhibition with over £1,000 and guest star news for the forthcoming `Resurrection of the Daleks`. The DWAS’ 20th anniversary party event which had barely been mentioned in CT has now happened as well and it seems was successful. 


Fan Scene CT 1983 #3

CT's 1983 editor Gordon Roxburgh did not have a way with headlines. Or perhaps he just didn’t have a lot of letraset. The July edition has the headline `Return`. A big picture of a Dalek sort of gives away what is returning but couldn’t he have at least managed something a bit more dynamic than `Return`. He does go on to describe `Destiny of the Daleks` as “dreadful” too which it isn’t. Tucked away deep inside the issue are the results of the 1983 season poll. It seems an oddly quiet way to declare them especially as the editor has said on the cover it is a slow news month. He probably didn’t have enough Letraset to add the story `Mawdryn Triumphs in Season Poll`. Yep by a margin of almost a thousand votes it is spaghetti head’s deserved victory in a poll I remember was the easiest to vote in for years given the varying qualities of the stories. Despite some peoples’ griping over the dating, `Mawdryn` struck me as the season’s only classic, a rich mixture of nostalgia and ideas. “Brigadier was superb” is the write up it gets in a tiny summary of some views below. In second place was `Enlightenment` whose visual extravagance masked a rather slow story but the surprise for me was seeing `Snakedance` coming fifth beaten by both `The Kings Demons` and- gasp- `Arc of Infinity`. The latter which I have always seen as the real turkey romps in third though if you re-ran this poll today I bet it would trail last. You only have to see it a second time to remember just how bad the Ergon is and how little sense the story makes. All of which means `Terminus` is bottom proving that disrobing companions and a giant cuddly bear are not certain to win people’s hearts!