Fan Scene CT82 #3

With salmon coloured front pages the June issue announces more details of next season including the title of the opening story- `Arc of Infinity`. Sounds great doesn’t it?  Also the worst kept secret of the time was that Janet Fielding hadn’t really left at the end of `Time Flight` and here we learn she will indeed be back next season. Under the heading `Crisis` the issue reveals that someone called Sarah who dealt with fan mail in the programme’s production office has left; possibly the second fact being a reaction to the first!. Additionally because of the World Cup there probably won’t be any repeats this summer. So is this what constituted a Crisis back in 1982? If only that was all we had to concern us now!! The front page also reports the death of Harold Goldblatt who was in `Frontier In Space` and that the marriage between Tom Baker and Lalla Ward has ended after sixteen months. 



Pyramids of Mars @45

There is an experience Doctor Who fans will never have again that anyone watching the series in the Seventies did have and that is watching your first episode in colour. After years of various shades of grey there would finally be an episode when the series exploded into bright COLOUR! For some it had started with `Spearhead from Space` when the series itself was first broadcast in colour. Some of us had to wait a while longer. For me it was episode 2 of `Pyramids of Mars` first broadcast on 1 November 1975. Having avidly watched the programme till in monochrome nothing could prepare me for the experience of seeing the series as it should look. It’s difficult to describe in a world now where black and white material is either ancient or used as a novelty. Somehow watching in monochrome you did have some idea of things being different shades yet whenever a photo turned up it was still a surprise. I think the reason why I loved the Target books covers was because of the vibrant colour of the artwork. Yet Doctor Who was still a black and white series for me. Then in 1975 we got a colour television and suddenly everything was different.



Fan Scene- CT82 #2

The world of Doctor Who in 1982 as seen by the DWAS newsletter Celestial Toyroom (aka CT)
Something that made a comeback in 1982 was the coloured paper which used to be a regular feature of CT. Last issue had a pink cover but for March a sort of lime green was used which had Ref Dept Announcement -Page Two emblazoned across the top even though the actual announcement isn’t really very exciting. They’re going to stop doing detailed synposes as these are now being done in DWM and there is also the Programme Guide.  Elsewhere on the cover comes news of the 1983 Annual which will include some behind the scenes material (Annuals usually confined themselves to new fiction). Those Dalek films posters keep showing up; this time around the rather splendidly named Powerpulse Productions are selling them. There’s even a mention of a Human League concert recently where slides of the Doctor were included in the show; well they did have a song called `Tom Baker`. 


Planet of Evil@45

I remember finding this the least impressive story of the season when I first saw it but back then I suppose I wanted it to have more monsters than it does. It just seemed very talky especially at first. Oddly re-watching now I prefer the first half to the second as it contains some interesting ideas whereas parts 3 and 4 seem to become more of a standard base (or in this case spaceship) under siege.  Less outwardly showy than it’s season counterparts, `Planet of Evil` takes its cues from both Forbidden Planet and Jekyll and Hyde. It shows just how effectively Messrs Hinchcliffe and Holmes- here with writer Louis Marks- were able to filter and splice elements of classic stories into something fresh.



Fan Scene - CT82 #1

The world of Doctor Who as seen by the DWAS newsletter Celestial Toyroom (aka CT)

While accounts often cite the Seventies as the original programme’s most successful period, ratings in the early Eighties were high driven partly by the popularity of Peter Davison. 1982 seems as if it will be a busy Doctor Who year and the January issue is testament to that activity with a variety of snippets relating to the programme. Though much of it resides in a column called Trivia it provides an interesting snapshot of just how much attention the series was receiving at this time. So there’s a piece about the uncovering of a sixteen year old poster for the Doctor Who and the Daleks film during the redecoration of Southgate Underground station (it’s a shame the photo looks rather like a flash of white light). There’s something about Madame Tussauds advertising their Doctor Who Experience with a `Guess Who’s at Madame Tussauds` campaign. The Five Faces of Doctor Who repeats on BBC2 are getting good ratings with the first episode `An Unearthly Child` placing tenth in the channel’s ratings that week. `Carnival of Monsters` is also reported as faring well beating Grange Hill. Even the Society’s own event DWASocial 2 held in Edinburgh in November 1981 was reported in `The Scotsman` newspaper. Target have published a quiz book which Gary Russell reports is more accurate than their Programme Guide though not entirely correct. It is selling for £1.25. Also the 70s play Doctor Who and the Seven Keys to Doomsday has been staged for the first time since 1974 by the Buxton Drama League.



Fury from the Deep review

The new animated version of `Fury from the Deep` arrives with a big reputation. Word of mouth from those who saw it fifty two (!) years ago suggest it’s one of the scariest adventures but we’ve been here before. `Tomb of the Cybermen` enjoyed similar reverence until it was actually found and revealed to be nowhere near as amazing as we’d expected. Sure it was good but had a major narrative flaw that was impossible to reconcile. After struggling with `The Faceless Ones`, dipping out during the interminable scenes with Scouser Pauline Collins, I was certainly hoping for more inspiring material because however good the animation is it can’t really alter the story significantly. On the surface `Fury` fits the late Sixties model of a place under siege with a variety of characters defined more by their job than their personality. They shout and argue a lot about procedure, ignore any obvious warnings that things are going wrong allowing the Doctor to lurk in the background till he pulls a solution out of the hat early in the last episode. However what unfolds is much more interesting, that rarity of a second Doctor story that gets better as it progresses.



Terror of the Zygons@45

Doctor Who never scared me - it thrilled me! Even as a child I watched it without feeling the need to leap behind the sofa. Instead I revelled in all those monsters and slime and robots and everything else. Yet I think that one of the scariest moments in any iteration of the programme is the end of episode one of this story when we see a Zygon for the first time. It is something to do with the fact that, as well as  the appearance of the creature being grotesque anyway – a cross between an embryo and a sea horse- it has its mouth wide open and Sarah’s scream is given a slight echo and mixed into the end sting when the theme music starts. Somewhere in the land of What-if there is a period of Doctor Who called the Banks Stewart Era when the writer Robert Banks- Stewart took over the series and every story was delivered with same brio as `Terror of the Zygons` and `Seeds of Doom`. It would be full of hard action, vicious antagonists, quirky characters and lashings of richly swirling Geoffrey Burgon incidental music. In the event though we have just ten episodes with these ingredients but they do stand out even from their much admired fellow stories this season. Unbelievably `Terror` was supposed to end season twelve - can you imagine this story being shown in the summer?



Doomsday review

Series 2@14. Emotional finale draws together the season’s themes.
The most remarkable aspect of this gripping finale is not the Daleks vs Cybermen dust up nor the skyscraping concepts on display but the acting of Billie Piper. When it comes to the crunch she delivers a performance that is so nuanced and interesting it takes your attention away from the metallic battling elsewhere. Rose Tyler’s always been both normal and yet unusual with a rare empathy for the victims of the Universe; that’s why she and the Doctor are such a good fit. There’s a scene early on where she stands up to the Daleks with a mixture of cheekiness and grit. It’s one of many moments where Billie P nails exactly what Rose should be like, the template for the modern companion. When we reach the sad ending of the story the way she just crumbles on the other side of the Void seems so real and raw. The series did- and in some ways still does - miss her not that I’m suggesting she keeps popping back of course. In fact the show almost undid the simple beauty of the final Bad Wolf Bay goodbye when Rose did indeed come back a couple of years later. “Will I see you again?” she asks tearfully. “Yes, in a couple of season’s time” the Doctor doesn’t say. 


Army of Ghosts review

Series 2@ 14 Unlikely set up leads to a sterling climax. 
“I ain’t afraid of no ghosts” quotes the Doctor and the trouble with this episode is that nobody else is either. For a writer who prefers to emphasise the emotional aspect of his work, the first half of Russell T Davies’s season finale treats the apparent return of the familial deceased as little more than a gimmick. There’s certainly mileage in a more carefully calibrated tale of such apparitions but it is absent here replaced by a somewhat irritating Doctor and said ghosts just standing about while people play football or wash the dishes. There is no real interaction with them neither does the subsequent parade of then contemporary television programmes featuring ghosts convince. A more qualified student of television might be able to relate how clever this all is but in this context it provides an awkward opening to a story, totally devoid of any sense of threat.  Admittedly RTD does throw in references to some kind of psychic suggestion but much of the episode lacks the fire suggested by the bold introduction. Luckily better things are lurking later on.


Fear Her review

Series 2@14. Unusually low key episode works until the final lap.
`Fear Her` feels like it’s come from somewhere else, that it was written for another project or as a short story and somehow found its way into the 2006 version of Doctor Who for which it just seems a bit out of place. Only Matthew Graham knows if that is the case but unfortunately it has gone down in history as the dud of the season which makes it sound like it’s awful. Which it isn’t. Parts of it are quite intriguing and it has the rare distinction of being a genuine mystery that the Doctor and Rose have to solve by deduction; an aspect Graham’s script acknowledges with their jokey detective banter. There’s something of Sapphire and Steel about the premise, though in place of that show’s spooky old buildings we’re in the middle of a modern Close with yellow bricked houses and daylight. It’s difficult to escape the feeling that the episode would have been better set at night in a creepy old house.