Saturday Night Monsters Book

Saturday Night Monsters
A 100% Unofficial Doctor Who Fanthology 
A collection of fan writings about Doctor Who first published in the zines This Way Up and Faze.
Features include
The triumphant 2005 Return
The 1985-6 Cancellation Crisis
Tom Baker's last season
Hartnell’s Historical Stories
The Philip Hinchliffe Era 
The stories of Robert Holmes & Robert Sloman
Season 21
The road from Survival to the TV Movie
and more… 

Reviews include: Talons of Weng Chiang, The Dalek Masterplan, Spearhead from Space, The Macra Terror, The End of Time, The War Machines, Dalek, Remembrance of the Daleks, Blink, The Tenth Planet,  The Name of the Doctor, Logopolis, Tomb of the Cybermen, School Reunion, Pyramids of Mars, Human Nature / Family of Blood, The Dominators, Day of the Doctor, City of Death, Amy’s Choice, Earthshock, Day of the Daleks, The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon, Carnival of Monsters, Trial of a Time Lord,  The Android Invasion,  Deep Breath,  Castrovalva,  The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, Death to the Daleks, Horror of Fang Rock,  Vengeance on Varos, Dragonfire, The Three Doctors,  The TV Movie, The Doctor’s Wife,  The Ice Warriors, Heaven Sent, Turn Left, Web of Fear, The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End and many more...
Sean Alexander, Colin Brockhurst, John Connors, Roger Jones, 
Matthew Kilburn,Daniel O’Mahony, Chris Orton, Adam Povey, 
David Rolinson, Ashley Stewart, Tim Worthington 
How to Buy:
It's available in electronic or print format on Amazon. Just click on either of these links and they will whizz you there..
Take me to the Print Version

Take me to the Kindle Ebook Version 

Here's some short taster extracts from the book.....

Imagine you’re a Doctor Who fan. One day in the 1990s someone appears from the future (and, hey, he might be a bit Northern with prominent ears and a black coat, you never know) and tells you that your favourite telly show, missing from screens for a while now, will be back on air in 2005 and not only will it be great, exciting, terrifying and epic but it will be a ratings trouncing success. The serious critics will rave and even people who previously thought it was all silly wobbly set laden kids stuff will swoon when they catch an eyeful. There will also, he adds with a twinkle in his eyes, be Daleks, millions of them. “Fantastic!”

According to all known laws of science, 'The Daleks' Master Plan' should be rubbish. Even at the dizzying height of Dalekmania, when their image adorned everything from bagatelle games to fish slices and people walking down the street in papier mache Dalek masks were a common sight, the idea of an entire twelve (thirteen, if you count the mezannine) episodes being devoted to a single story featuring the malevolent mutants in metal casings was something approaching overkill. To add to this, the story was commissioned under duress from BBC Director General Sir Huw Wheldon - reputedly based on no more sound an artistic basis than that his mother was quite keen on the Daleks- which is never a situation conducive to the creation of great art. Meanwhile Dalek creator Terry Nation, was not exactly at the peak of his concentration and delivered scripts for some episodes that were scarcely more than a couple of pages in length. Most notoriously of all, the story was bisected by a slapstick comedy Christmas special that played host to the most cringeworthy moment ever witnessed in the series and as most of it has long since vanished from the archives and what little did remain hasn't exactly been given frequent public airings, there hasn't been much changing of minds going on.

Every so often, back in the days when Doctor Who used to be more than just a fading memory and a video a month, a story would pop up that tried to address – either directly or obliquely – a pressing social or political issue of its time. Immediately, after transmission half of fandom would go berserk. “This is Doctor Who ”, they would howl, “a simple entertaining series for all the family. It shouldn’t be considering these problems. Politics has no place in our series”. This is an odd stance, and one which I can’t understand. Doctor Who is a Science Fiction series, and a Science Fiction is a genre whose aim is (supposedly) to provide new perspectives of the state of the world or the human race. Sometimes this perspective is direct (e.g. the blatant moralising of the Pertwee era or Cartmel’s hatred for yuppies), sometimes it comes in the form of allegory and allusion. It would be wholly unacceptable for the Doctor to turn up in 1980s Britain and start overthrowing  the Thatcher government, but he can topple the oppressive dictatorship of Helen A. Doctor Who doesn’t deal with real political situations because it doesn’t need to. It has other means. 

At the heart of the satire is, of course, television. Actually, television has always been viewed with suspicion by Doctor Who. The second Doctor, looking to feed a computer "useless information", asked for a TV set (which is cheeky coming from the not-exactly-Newsnight Troughton eral), This anti-TV snobbery is unsurprising, given the ("high-culture") theatrical backgrounds of behind-the-scenes staff. Holmes, however, was a populist who loved television and Doctor Who in particular. He wrote so well for the show because he understood the format. Doctor Who often used the scientific romance convention of examining contemporary culture via supposedly strange new lands, but Holmes goes back to the start of this tradition: Gulliver's Travels. 'The Sun Makers' saw brilliant satire grounded in a  traditional revolutionary tale, the way Jonathan Swift carried readers with him by using the traveller's-tale genre and many plausible-sounding statistics to enhance verisimilitude (although these stats were deliberately wrong, because you shouldn't just believe what others write). Interestingly, Gulliver's Travels was for a long time dismissed as simple-minded entertainment for children (because for a while the only available edition was massively abridged and censored). Holmes's frequently vicious satire has been ignored by wider critics because it's in Doctor Who, and by Doctor Who fans because they have a problem with humour. This is understandable - a cheap programme like Doctor Who depends on conviction for verisimilitude, so bad attempts at humour seem like a send-up. I understand- their concerns, but this shouldn't have led to the rejection of bona fide Who classics like 'The Romans' and 'The Gunfighters'. 

I'm going to open this article by breaking all the rules and giving a short answer to the question which I've set myself. Of course there was a Hinchcliffe era. We know this because it's been written about and commented on exhaustively since at least Jan Vincent-Rudzki's notorious review of The Deadly Assassin in TARDIS early in 1977. Fandom perceives it, and so in that sense it exists. In this article I'm going to try to see how well the 'Hinchcliffe era' can be defined and look at what this tells us about fan perceptions and about Doctor Who itself.

When it wasn't playing macho games or wnting scripts with Doctor Who Weetabix monster cards, the Davison era was capable of thoughtful, conceptual writing. 'Castrovalva' is one of Doctor Who's rare moments of beauty, a cocoon nurturing the regenerative transition. The viewer has several cocoons offering familiarity while Davison's portrayal emerges: the Pharos Project scenes rounding off 'Logopolis', the third part of the bridging Master trilogy, and the three new companions. The Doctor's cocoons are the TARDIS corridors he wanders while shedding his old skin, then the Zero Room, the Zero Cabinet and the Dwellings of Simplicity. During this necessary process of self-discovery, the Doctor speaks for the audience when he asks, "Will I find the Doctor here?". Yes, we will - for now, at least

The most curious aspect of all is that it was Michael Grade who was blamed for everything. At the time it was easy to see why, especially as he had once said that if he were ever to become BBC controller he would scrap “tired old rubbish like `Doctor Who`”. Even DWB which was relentless in its attacks on the quality of the series at that time (something the DWAS almost ignored) and seemed well informed as to what was going on, failed to identify Powell as anything other than one of a series of BBC execs to whom letters could be written. Grade, who despite that earlier quote, was far more ambivalent to the show than Powell (who was on record as hating the programme) got all the flak and was even pursued on a skiing holiday and for months afterwards to the point where cancelling 'Doctor Who' is one of the best known things he supposedly did at the BBC. Some six years later he talked in `The Daily Telegraph` about his reasons for taking the show off air if only for a year; “All those low budget television effects made it look like something left over from the Seventies.It was as dull as ditchwater. I held it up for a year in the hope that it would put a bomb under the production team but it didn’t really work.” 

A large proportion of the speculative excitement centred around something known initially as the 'Turret Dalek' which was deliberately obscured in all the pre-publicity photos so as to keep its appearance a 'surprise'. Said 'Turret Dalek' was to be responsible for a great number of explosions in the finished story, and it was even reported at the time that its pyromaniac antics had attracted the attention of the anti-terrorist squad during an early morning shoot. In retrospect, though, doesn't that sound a little too conveniend By then, we had grown used to people 'in the know' falsely claiming that the Ice Warriors were to return every five minutes, and so most people treated the rumours with a pinch of salt. Although I have to admit that when I was told that the series was going to be transmitted in stereo, not being in possession of a stereo television or video myself, I spent long hours trying to figure out how to tune a radio in to BBC I. Oh yes, it was all live and in black and white then you know.

It's a funny old sort of a thing. It's called Doctor Who, it uses its language and dances to its beat, and yet it's not Doctor Who. Not quite. There are moments of pure Who, bits that would be brilliant in yer usual story but, like McGann's Doctor, feel somehow awkward and alien to this collision of cultures. Philip Segal never seems to be in either the British or American camps, and in hopping inbetween and trying to appeal to such different tastes, he manages to alienate everyone in equal measure. So, it's not quite right, but then I would say that because I'm one of those quaint Englishmen who thinks car chases are crass and guns are crap, knows his chameleon circuits from his cloaking devices and doesn't quite understand what Americans are for

It was hardly likely Steven Moffat was going to actually give us the name of the Doctor, especially now American Amazon’s Blu-ray distribution system has taken over from obsessive fans has his b√™te noire. Many of us had already inserted an “In’ into the start of the episode title, but even so the episode provided a ride that seems (according to my highly unscientific sampling) to have pleased both fans and casual viewers alike. That’s quite impressive for an episode so full of fan service and references to the past.

But the genius – and it’s been a few years since I used that adjective with regard to Doctor Who’s current pilot – of ‘Listen’ is its layered onion of plot, emotion and volte-face misdirection as each skin yields a greater understanding of its nature.  What seems to be a character-filling piece of exposition for Clara’s beau-in-waiting takes a sudden lurch into the heart of this show’s very mythology, revealing questions long thought answered whilst playing another riff on the Doctor’s current plus-one as the ‘Impossible Girl’.  If there’s been any remaining doubt that Clara Oswald is the most important companion in the Doctor’s (many) lives, ‘Listen’ pretty much nails its answer to the TARDIS blackboard; becoming as much a talisman of hope from centuries past that helps shape a Time Lord’s destiny from under his very bed.  Oh Doctor, so lonely then and even lonelier now…

At work recently, we were given guidelines as to how to structure a report. It said that we should not build to the point of a report; it should be there right at the start, and we should then go on to justify that start in the rest of the report. So, I'm going to take that advice and start this review with a big, bold, statement; Human Nature/Family of Blood is the best Doctor Who story. Ever. Not just in the Russell T Davies era, but from the whole 44 year history of the TV show. And here's why...

Background Notes

SNM I’m sure people imagine putting a compilation like this together is just cutting and pasting but it actually involves a lot more. One problem was that I only have paper versions of the old Faze material and some of them were typed on word processors rather than computers. The results of scanning some of these is interesting if indecipherable material like this for example- 
mostly brightly lit sets and an "euemv t rcalised by blokes ill costumes and masks could have been a recipe for disaster. Yet thcs story
or even this -

11t~1t~ yd i~ madc' oUI 10 lu- stupid onlv one storv later) as he tackles the material with a straight face. Yr-I, tln'((' i:; ~;ollldhill~~ lIIi~;~;irw. still: if wa!; only when the acto! hlought a IIIOn..~ unpredictable spark to
One of the other aspects was trying to select contents that worked together and there were a number of pieces that missed out for different reasons. Most of these will appear on this blog in due course; the Revelation set visit uploaded recently was one example that was only cut at the very last draft when I had to lose 20 pages.
You might think that not all of the Doctors get equal page space and you'd be right but this is partly to reflect what I saw as their recognition in the public eye and also what material was available. 
You may also wonder about the order of the chapters which start in 2005 and end in 2010 yet cover 52 years in between. That’s time travel for you! The actual answer is I wanted the book to have a sort of narrative and the 2005 return when Doctor Who became more popular than at any time in it’s history seems like a good place to start. Had the book been done in 2013 I would have ended at the anniversary but with very mixed views of last season circulating plus the fact it’s in the middle of a Doctor’s tenure meant I chose to conclude the book at the end of a particular era and a high note. 

The Cover 

The cover, which was produced by Glendon Haddix of Streetlight Graphics who also did the cover of my novel Living Things. If you're ever in need to a cover image for a self published work then I'd recommend checking Streetlight out. They are reasonably priced and willing to incorporate your own ideas and style.  From my idea, these were his initial sketches -

Which then became this -

Here's a version of the cover that includes the copyright busting image of the TARDIS on the back!! Shame it couldn't be used.

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