Thursday, 19 January 2012

Dreadnought (Part One)

Click on image for larger view. Part 2 tomorrow...

The Eighth Doctor Radio Times Comic Strip

The Radio Times comic strips were a series of five comic stories featuring the Eighth Doctor, printed in the Radio Times, that ran for forty-two issues starting the week after the Eighth Doctor premaired in the Doctor Who Movice on BBC1 in 1996 (issue dated 1-7 June 1996).

They were all scripted by Gary Russell with art by Lee Sullivan, colour by Alan Craddock and lettering by Elitta Fell.

The stories were ended prematurely by the management at the Radio Times. Originally they were planned to last for 60 issues with the fifth story to have the title Deceptions (and an unknown title for the final 10 parter). Instead, Coda was produced to tie up dangling plot elements, rather abruptly.

The strips also introduced two new companions, Stacy Townsend and Ssard who would both later appear in the BBC Eighth Doctor Adventures novel Placebo Effect, written by Gary Russell, a sequel to the comic strips.

Dreadnought (10 Parts) 1 - 7 June 1996 - 3 - 9 August 1996
Descendance (10 Parts) 10 - 16 August 1996 - 12 - 18 1996
Ascendance (10 Parts) 19 - 25 October 1996 - 21 December 1996 - 3 January 1997
Perceptions (10 Parts) 4 - 10 1997 - 8 - 14 1997
Deceptions (10 Parts, abandoned)
Coda (2 Parts) 15 - 21 March 1997 - 22 - 28 1997

Gary Russell explained more about his aborted plans for the comic strip in 1999 as follows: "There were two more ten-part stories - in which Stacy was revealed to be a Zygon replacement (they were to have been the villains from the Victorian tale we did finish [Perceptions] - and then added that awful Coda to). Story one was on an ice planet [Deceptions], story two took them to the Zygon homeworld and saw Ssard rescuing the fair damsel which started the romance that finished up in Placebo Effect."

I'm not sure as to how fans view this strip within the canonistity [is that a word?!] of the Who univererse. I see it as being from a parallel universe, if you know what I mean. [Yes the same parallel universes that I don't really believe in!]

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Blue, Who, and what to do...

I often find myself wondering about my fasination with this strange TV show. I'm 40 years old for god's sake! I should be taking over the world or something, not wasting time watching something I've seen so many times before or spending more money on more damn plastic crap made in China and to be hidden away in a box.

I've watched Who since I can remember. I'm sure I can rememer Tom Baker's first story, Robot, and have definate memories of the Ark in Space and the green bubble-wrap maggot man. Hiding behind the sofa was no use here, terrified I ran and hid in the downstairs toilet, and in such a rush managed to break the toilet seat. I cried when Sarah-Jane left, got frustraited when Leela left (but got to go, and stay, on Gallifrey!).

I'm a big fan of the older stories, and I'm remembering now the Five Faces of Doctor Who repeat season on BBC 2 in the build up to Davison's arrival - that was when I really became a fan. I can remember watching An Unearthly Child, The Krotons, Carnival of Monsters and Logolopolis [hold on, that's only four, oh yes, and the Three Doctors... but that's still only four faces...] as if it was yesterday, and they are all firm favourites. This was before video, and it felt really special watching these old stories, almost like travelling back in time itself.

With the arrival of Peter Davision I was hooked, becoming a Doctor Who Monthly subscriber, probably triggered by reading the Target books, which I avidly collected, and exploring those stories which you'd thought you'd never get to see ever again. [Indeed some of them we wont get to see ever again - I'm fascinated with the missing episodes and their stories, and love the narrated TV audio soundtracks, which has lead me into the world of the Target novelisation audios.]

Back then my folks were'nt too keen on me spending all my spare money on something they saw as a passing phase. 'It won't last' they'd say, and perhaps my stubornness to prove a point became self-re-inforcing. But, my Dad was good enough to get me tickets and take me to the 20th Who anniversary thing at Longleat, which was truely amazing. I slowly got addicted to collecting Who stuff, and when I had the money ended up spending studpid amounts on deleted videos to catch up on my collection. And those last few damn target novelisations!

But what is it that makes me want to watch, again and again, the same stories when I know what's going to happen? I do have some memory issues, which makes watching something so familiar quite reasuring. But there's a particular phase I go through when I find myself 'Whoing'. I suffer from chronic depression, of cycles of self destruction and phases of slow rebuilding. Now I'm not saying that you have to have mental health issues to be so addicted to a TV programme - but it helps. It's during these regular cycles of rebuilding where I find myself revisiting Who, and using it as a tool to get myself back up and running. It's my escape, time off from myself, but it also becomes my vehicle to get busy doing something, reading, listening, watching and thinking about something which is, in the end, just a TV show, but, somehow, something which can get you thinking about all sorts of strange stuff. [Although parrallel universes are giving me some headaches at the moment thought. I just don't believe there's a different universe out there following every different decision or direction that every different person, animal, vegetable or mineral has randomly or otherwise taken over the history of the universe. Come on, is there really a different universe where I arrange my Target books in date of pubication (and their numbering) rather than the TV story order? I would never happen I tell you!]

My shrink just thinks I have too much time on my hands. And so have you probably if you've read all this!

Monster ruminations

The other day we looked at the (usual) pre-season rumours of returning monsters. We've been promised a couple of classic who monsters from the 60s and 70s, and as season 7 goes into production shortly, and in the absence of any solid info, we may as well waffle on a bit about stuff. I tend to avoid all the speculation and spoilers which do the rounds as the show starts filming and reports start accumulating on stories and scripts, but there's no harm in a bit of rumour rumination.

As we said, strories of Yeti have been doing the rounds, and whilst I'd welcome the Great Intelligence returning, I think the Yeti themselves are past their use-by date.

My personal favourites to return would be the Ice Warriors, but again their backstory is weak (like the cybermen they may need reinventing), and like the Silurians their name is somewhat problematic. Ice Warriors are called Ice Warriors because we first encountered them frozen in a lump if ice. It's not like thus is one if their favourite places to chillout. And whilst everybody loves a good old Ice Warrior, we like bad, untrust worthy ones even better. But the biggest problem for me is we've just had humanoid reptilian type monsters returning with the Silurians, so I doubt we'll get the Warriors just yet, or the Draconians, which is another monster race deserving of a revist, although their unfashionable future space opera type scenario makes these guys even more unlikely to reappear any time soon. And they're green.

That's where I think Zygon's get the nod. At least they're orange, which would compliment Silurian and (in time) 'Ice Warrior' green when we get a great big monster mash-up which will now doubt be next year (and I think maybe the end of Moff and Smith). Again I see a draw back in the limited plot options with the ugly orange buggers - they're just suckers for an alien invasion of Earth story, duplicates and all, and not much else. But that didn't stop the Nestine/Autons returning, and they suffer from the same problem (as if being specifically evolved to invade Earth during the age of plastic, as we may as well call it).

The BBC website has recently reintroduced the Rutans, and as we've already got the Sontarians, so their epic war is an area of classic Who which really could be explored. Perhaps a god season finalae? I think they should be blue though, not green. Or perhaps orange. And blue. Perhaps they should change colour with their mood like squid and octopusses, that would be cool.

And I did wonder about the spiders... I love that idea if them being on your back, an idea already recycled with Donna and those beetle things. Lots of potential there, and scary stuff. I must admit I dislike spiders myself, dispite being a bit of an ecologist and general wildlife lover, but last year got bitten by poisonous spiders (twice!) whilst out in Africa. Now my irrational fear has been intensified and I can't even look at a picture of the horrible eight legged creepy-crawly things without getting the fear. They must die. All of them. And given the Moff treatment they could really be scary. We like scary. And we love really scary. All good stuff to terrorise a new companion with...

Monday, 16 January 2012

Next companion... a red herring?

Combom's picked up on a tweet by the Moff, [perhaps too obviously a red herring?];

An interesting tweet from Steven Moffat earlier this week;

Right EVERYBODY who follows me, go and follow @SophiaMyles - spin that fireplace. NOW. I'll explain later. Or not.

Of course @SophiaMyles is Sophia Myles who played Madame De Pompadour in the 10th Doctor story 'The Girl in the Fireplace', written by the Moff. Sophia apparently replied: 'Watch this (fire)place and also added 'The plot thickens...' [I'm not a twitter nit so have to take other people's word for all this!]

Will Moff play it safe, again, and go for an actress he's already used in Who? Maybe. Would he openly drop such a huge hint about the next companion? Probably not.

My feeling - maybe she will appear in the next series (or maybe Sherlock, which has been suggested elsewhere), but not as companion... she's two year's older than Matt Smith, which would, I think, be a bit odd...

My vote, if we had to recycle someone - bring back Michelle Ryan (Lady Christina de Souza), preferably in PVC catsuit! I mean, there's a loose end that needs tying up - last seen flying off in a red London bus... come on, surely the Moff can't resist the temptation to tie up every loose end ever in the history of the show... (now there's a challenge for him).

Lost script for BBC radio Who discovered

A long-lost radio script for an episode of a proposed Doctor Who radio series, to be made in the late sixties, and starring Peter Cushing as the Doctor, has been discovered in the BBC archives.

Journey into Time was written by Malcolm Hulke, who went on to write some of the most regarded scripts of the classic series of Doctor Who. In the radio play, a pilot of which was recorded but never broadcast, the Doctor, accompanied by his granddaughter, ends up in the midst of the American Revolution. The recording has been lost for many years.

The series was proposed as a collaboration between independent company Stanmark Productions and Watermill Productions, who put forward plans for 52 episodes to be made for Australia and other overseas territories. It would star Cushing, who had previously played a character called 'Doctor Who' in the two Dalek movies made earlier in the decade. Its existence was known about through promotional material discovered in 1989, but the script was thought lost until it was discovered by Richard Bignell in a file of merchandising queries held in the BBC archives.

The series was rejected by the BBC with Martin Esslin, head of sound drama, saying: "As a typical commercial production for unsophisticated listeners in Australia or even some parts of the United States, it stands up quite well. As a piece of science fiction, however, it strikes me as extremely feeble."

The story detailing precisely what happened back in 1966/67, along with the original pilot script, is detailed in the third issue of the production research magazine Nothing at the End of the Lane, published on Monday 16th January.


Karen drifts off into space

Everyone's talking about Karen's forthcoming role playing Jean Shrimpton in a dramatisation of her affair with photographer David Bailey - We'll Take Manhattan airs this month on BBC4.

The Guardian (or is the Observer?) has a wee interview with the lass here, including this very strange picture of Karen remembering that she's left the oven on whilst pretending to be... well we're not sure what, a fairy cake perhaps.

Anyway, here's a little snippet for anyone too lazy to click the link...

What does she find relaxing? "Space!" Space? As in… "Space! I went to the Royal Observatory the other day, and looked through the biggest telescope in the UK. I saw a star from 47 years in the past. Hang on…" She leaps up to find her phone and shows me her screensaver, a photo of Saturn.

"Yep, space excites me. My dream is to go to space. And dreams – I find the meanings of dreams very interesting. And the brain. Did you know the brain has three layers, and when we're drunk, we revert to the bottom layer, which is only interested in eating, sleeping and 'meeting a partner'. And music connects to that layer, that bottom layer! Did you know that?" No! What would she be if not an actor? Would she go back to college, study science? "I'd be a hypnotist, like Paul McKenna. I'd make people feel like they are in love."

Though she's "relieved" to be leaving Dr Who in the next series, there's some time before she has to think about a career change. However much she tries to suppress it – staying off the red carpets, staying out of the taxis and arms of fellow actors – her fame is growing. She is just back from meetings in LA, "which were pretty weird, actually. In Britain they try and actually dissect your personality – over there they just want to see what you can do."

Can she imagine moving out to Hollywood? What would she do? How would she change? She thinks for a second, and curls a wisp of her ketchup-coloured hair around a long white finger. "I think," she says, slowly, "I think I'd stay in the shade."

Karen jumps for joy at not having to pretend to understand the Moff's timey-wimey scripts anymore. [Photos by Alan Clarke for the Observer]

Saturday, 14 January 2012

The original Sarah-Jane

How it could have been: nearly 40 years later, the secret of who was originally cast as Doctor Who's Sarah Jane Smith has been revealed. It was April Walker, best known for myriad guest roles in Fawlty Towers, The Two Ronnies and Yes, Minister.

Pictured above left is Jon Pertwee in the 1973 story The Time Warrior, which introduced Sarah Jane Smith. Then, above right, is April Walker in a Two Ronnies sketch, The Attractive Barmaid, from the same year.

Doctor Who producer Barry Letts cast Walker when Katy Manning left the role of Jo Grant, the Doctor's previous companion, and she worked in rehearsals for The Time Warrior. But allegedly the pairing of Pertwee's Doctor and Walker's Sarah Jane didn't work: she was a tall and more obviously strong character, along the lines of Pertwee's first companion, Liz Shaw (Caroline John).

It's believed that Pertwee was unhappy with the decision but it would ultimately have been Letts who recast the role. Walker was reportedly paid for both The Time Warrior and the rest of that series.

Changes during production are not common but they do happen: the most famous is perhaps the replacement of Eric Stoltz with Michael J Fox for Back to the Future. Unusually, that was quickly revealed, even if footage of his filming has been harder to find. But for BBC drama fans, the remaining question is over Dr Rose Marie in A Very Peculiar Practice: Barbara Flynn knows who she replaced during filming but still won't say.

Lis Sladen always refused to reveal April Walker's name, too. But the news has been divulged now on a DVD release of Invasion of the Dinosaurs, the second story with Sarah Jane.

Source: Radio Times

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Monster rumours....

Towards the end of last year, Who producer Marcus Wilson revealed that a couple of classic Doctor Who monsters from the 60s and 70s are set to reappear in Series 7...

“We’ve got a couple of returning monsters, some old fan favourites, but we’re going to move them on a bit,” Wilson was quoted in Doctor Who Magazine. “‘That’s how they were done in the 60s or 70s. Here’s what we can do with them now.’

“Kids these days are really good at spotting bad CGI or prosthetics, so we can’t do anything substandard. One flick of the remote and you go from Doctor Who to Harry Potter. We’ve got to compete at that level, on a hundredth of the budget.”

Wilson also spoke about the Daleks multicoloured misstep: “I don’t think any of us would say that the multicoloured Daleks quite worked, but you’ve got to try new things. If you just repeat and repeat the show is in danger of stagnating.”

The early word is that one of them is in fact the Yeti... again.

This is not the first time the monsters have been rumoured to return. Back in 2010, a piece of Yeti artwork from concept artist Peter Mckinstry spread the net with many believing it to be for the Christmas special. But it turned out this was actually for the Doctor Who DVD Files magazine.

It's fair to say that a lot of traditional Who fans would welcome this, but, how exactly do your bring back the Yeti? Bring back the Great Intelligence, which controlled the Yeti robots, by all means, but the form of the Yeti was adopted for the particular setting of their first story, the Himalayas. A follow up story based in London was nicely fitted in (with a reactivated Yeti robot kicking it all off), but let's be honest, surely if the Great Intelligence was to return, it would shape a new form to do it's dirty work? All that time floating about in space with no physical form, you're bound to come up with something better than giant fluffy robots... surely? I like the idea of some crazed religious TV preacher in the States (you know, like Tom Cruse) getting possessed and becoming the GI figurehead... so I guess we could have an army of Sasquatch... or giant fluffy robots.

Other monsters often rumoured to return? Zygons? I'd love to see the Zygons done again, and they do make a nice change (of colour). And considering their success as a monster, and that they only appeared in one original TV series, they did quite well (I can still remember them being on the back of my (sadly thrown away) Wheetabix packet). I say bring back both... but please, get someone good to write the stories!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Gillan talks about departure from Who

Speaking on 'The Graham Norton Show', Karen Gillan admitted it's a "massive relief" to finally be able to discuss her alter-ego's departure from the series. "I've known about it for ages. It's such a massive relief that [the news] is out and I can speak freely about it.

"I'm back next year for a few episodes but it's not actually confirmed when I go."

Karen will depart 'Doctor Who' alongside her on-screen husband Arthur Darvill - who plays Rory Pond - and show boss Steven Moffat has previously revealed the pair's exit will be "heartbreaking".

He said: "The Ponds will be rejoining us next series. But the final days of the Ponds are coming, I am not telling you when and I won't say how. But that story is going to come to a heartbreaking end."

Meanwhile, the flame-haired actress has admitted she wants her alter-ego to be killed off so she can be remembered as a "good" companion to the time-travelling Doctor.

She recently said: "Death would be an option. I don't want Amy to pop up again every so often, because for me it would take away from the big, emotional goodbye.

"Once she's gone, she's gone. I want people to remember the Amy Pond era as a good one."