15 October 2018

The Ghost Monument review

 Written by Chris Chibnall. Directed by Mark Tonderai. Reviewed by Sean Alexander
Welcome to what I presume is your first alien planet…don’t touch anything!”
 Following last week’s case of new new Doctor, new new best friends and – finally – new new theme arrangement, it’s heartening to know that this new new class of Doctor Who 2018 is still falling back on the kind of tried and trusted formulae that first made it a success all those many years ago in, er, 2005.  Because after an episode set amongst the drab and dismal steel of Sheffield in 2018, and with a trip to 1950s Alabama and a certain civil rights pioneering seamstress a week away, it’s time for new new Who to take its sophomore steps into the far future, and a distant planet.  If 21st Century Who learnt anything from its black-and-white stable-mate it was the need to stretch the storytelling canvas in every which way its format allowed.  So, with the present day accounted for and the past another country just a week away, here is the tried and trusted trip to the final frontier of sci-fi tropes like dirty hulking spaceships and laser beams.

8 October 2018

The Woman Who Fell To Earth review

Written by Chris Chibnall. Directed by Jamie Childs. Reviewed by Matthew Kilburn
When I was growing up, turning on the television at 6.45pm would find BBC1 in the middle of Songs of Praise, or ITV about to embark on its own half hour of Christian devotion. With Songs of Praise now adrift somewhere in the middle of the afternoon, and ITV long having shed its Sunday evening ‘God slot’, it’s tempting to regard Doctor Who’s translation to Sunday nights as a recognition that it, now, is the new established faith of the United Kingdom. The excited reporting of social media’s overwhelmingly favourable reaction to The Woman Who Fell to Earth on the 10pm news on BBC Radio 4, complete with approving quotations from an interview with Jenny Colgan, suggested that the projection of public celebration of the new version of Doctor Who is exceptionally important to the BBC, almost existentially so.

5 October 2018

The Hand of Fear@42

It’s testament to the effectiveness of the story’s conclusion that all this time later following multiple returns to the series for the character, Sarah’s departure remains one of the original series’ rare emotional moments. It’s presented in a very English manner, all repressed and buttoned up as neither the Doctor nor Sarah says what they really want to say. The genius of the scene though is that Sarah has only just been having a bit of a strop and if nothing else had happened would undoubtedly have been talked into one more journey and another and… Instead the Doctor gets a call and realises he can’t take her to Gallifrey. It adds weight to the feelings of both because for sure the Doctor wants her to stay. Incidentally when Sarah does meet the Doctor again in `School Reunion` her reaction is so in tune with this farewell scene.  The end of part 4 is such a good sequence, especially from both actors, that it can lead you to think the whole story has been as subtle which despite some strong elements it hasn’t.

23 September 2018

The Masque of Mandragora@42

By 1976 Doctor Who was in the midst of an imperial period of distinction with one classic after another being broadcast and more to come. Yet this story, which debuted Tom Baker’s third season, seems to have been curiously undervalued at the time. It’s less showy than the rest of the season and one of the more cultured scripts the original series had thanks to Louis Marks drawing from his knowledge of the Italian Renaissance. It was certainly well thought of enough to be given prominence in obituaries when the writer died in 2010 with The Guardian mentioning “Machiavellian comedy, a book-burning priest and the musical surnames Rossini and Scarlatti” as influences the story included.
Part One: You’ve got to admire this opening episode for its urgency. My own memory of this story is a certain low key, slow unfurling but part one turns out to be the opposite. Packed into an eventful 25 minutes is a lot of material that lays out the parameters of the story and gives us lots of action. By the end both the Doctor and Sarah are facing the prospect of gruesome executions, both having been knocked out (the Doctor twice). There’s some very dangerous Mandragora energy loose in fifteenth century Italy thanks to the Doctor materialising the Tardis in the middle of it. Oh and we’ve seen a new console room and met our retinue of central players. 

29 August 2018

Michael Pickwoad 1945- 2018

Doctor Who has never looked as fantastic as it has in recent years and that was largely down to production designer Michael Pickwoad whose sense of gothic style was immediately apparent when he joined the series for `A Christmas Carol`.  He brought a more cinematic look to the production despite rumours of a reduced budget and his sensibilities seemed completely suited to Steven Moffat’s darker take on the Time Lord. With numerous stories preoccupied with issues such as mortality, time and secrets Pickwoad’s designs underscored these bleaker themes. Historical or futuristic, he always created a devilish beauty in his sets and buildings, a sense of the classical mixed with the eccentric. 

10 August 2018

Scheduling, leaks plus the great Alan Bennion

The persistent rumour that the forthcoming series of Doctor Who will be shown on Sunday rather than Saturday has not gone away and often when something lurks for that long it turns out to be true. Such a move would make sense given that the two primary programmes surrounding it cannot be moved. Strictly Come Dancing has to go out live as they record the results show afterwards and Casualty seems rooted to Saturday night. Thus Doctor Who has often had to go out too early or too late. Plus people are in general much busier on a Saturday evening than a Sunday evening. Put it on Sunday before the 7.15 Strictly results and it kick starts the evening. It also takes it away from potential ITV big hitters.

8 August 2018

Fan Scene Tardis77 Issues 7 & 8

Issue 7: This issue sees another re-organisation due to the difficulties of combining CT and Tardis as one publication. From 1978 CT will be a separate monthly newsletter. It doesn’t say how regularly Tardis will come out but anyway this would be the format that the DWAS would use from here on and may well still be using today if they still publish zines? Membership fees of £1.50 per year (yikes!) will pay for this. Debate Corner is a feature that seems to come and go but this issue is still rattling on about whether the Meddling Monk is The Master. NO, HE WASN’T!!! Delightfully on the letters page the idea of female Time Lords is discussed by someone. Of course in 2018 it is interesting that the letter does not seem to suggest that male Time Lords could regenerate into female ones but perhaps a young S. Moffatt was reading this issue? I should mention The Song of Taliesyn a comic strip which is well drawn but seems nothing like a Doctor Who story at all. I wonder how many people read it back then?