Archive for August, 2007

Doc, You Meant Harry?

Friday, August 24th, 2007


It’s one of the little pleasures stemming from the ever-increasing output over the last few years – we’re finally getting to see some well researched, well produced documentaries on our DVDs.

The best of which recently has been Endgame on the Survival DVD, which looks at what would have happened had the series continued beyond Season 26. Fascinating in its ideas, its revelations (sorry fanboys… there was no masterplan) and its interviewees (particularly with Peter Creegan – the man who swung the axe), the doco benefits greatly from focussing on a relatively recent period of time, and includes pretty much all of the key players.

Other notable successes have also been the various New Beginnings docos (when did we EVER think we’d see footage of Tom Baker throwing tantrums on set!), the Invasion animation presentation, and the ‘how it all began’ on the Beginning box-set, which is the model for how to make a documentary interesting when there really isn’t much to show.

This is a far cry from the first DVD documentary that I saw – the talking head-fest that was the Seeds of Death retrospective. Sssssssnore. Essentially a group of talking heads, it sits at a bloated 40-something minutes, when a tight 15 would have been of much more interest.

Luckily though, it does seem like the DVD team have sorted themselves out and we’re now getting more than just a collection of cobwebbed anecdotes. Personally, I’d love to see an indepth Season 23 one, perhaps tied in with a Trial box set, and how about some focussing on the early years, such as the tumultuous season 6, or a certain aspect of the show like console room design, or even the history of that stalwart of Doctor Who production – CSO!

They don’t need to be long… they just need to be good.

JP – creator of the most groan inducing heading ever.

Fast Return – Armageddiconafanalooza Edition

Sunday, August 19th, 2007


Truly, we are living in a Golden Age. A Doctor Who is touring the country with Gandalf and has made the time to stop by and see us. And TSV enters its third decade. It’s all here in our special bumber-sized bijou edition of Fast Return

You read it here first, folks.  And then you probably read it here.

July 1987. Where were you? Were you even born yet? On this month in history future-TARDIS anagram Kylie Minogue put her singing career into motion with, er, ‘The Loco-motion’. The world’s population turned five billion. TSV‘s readership was two. It all began there though. How did you mark the event? A moment’s silence? Hugging the nearest Xerox machine? Thinking of Ken Dodd’s casting in Delta and the Bannermen and clenching your fists? We camped out at the Auckland University Library to find the original photocopier that made the dream a reality, but it’s been sent to that service depot in the sky, the original photocopier bay refitted to include computer terminals. Our balloons may have shrunk, the Miami wine cooler gone flat and the Cheezels gone stale, but the dream lives on. Happy birthday TSV!

It was tantalisingly promised on the Armageddon website, then cruelly corrected – revised, even. So in order that a few fans are traumatised as possible by this loss, here’s what our research boffins came up with:

  • The first issue of TSV was actually discovered in the form of some microfilms found embedded in some glass cubes dug up in Terry Nation’s back garden. Translated by David Whittaker and resized to A5, they became the quarterly fan newsletter we enjoy today.
  • The Christchurch years of the NZDWFC never existed, but were in fact a crafty way of utilising the Garden City’s lighter tax regime. It’s all obvious when you realise that Andrew Poulsen is an anagram of LAUNDER NEW SOP – that ‘sop’ being of course the TSV coffer. Thought you’d get that one past us, eh Paul?
  • Volumes 1 through to 5 (plus volume 9) of the Doctor Dictionary were in fact composed and published, but were incinerated by BBC Archives in 1974 and now rest somewhere deep underneath the Johnsonville Landfill.
  • With the imminent departure of TARDIS Tales fromthe TSV roster the zine’s editorial team was put into an intense panic. By chance during the turmoil Junior Editor Matthew Dentieth knocked over a table of Banana Man and Viz comics, and Erato was born.
  • Plans for TSV 70s editorial to be made available as a podcast from the NZDWFC website were shelved at the last minute, when it was discovered that playing the audio backwards revealed the phrase “Paul is Dead” repeated throughout the recording.



The Lear McCoy

Friday, August 17th, 2007


William Shakespeare’s King Lear, directed by Trevor Nunn.
Westpac St James Theatre, Wellington 13 August 2007.

While it might initially seem odd for a Doctor Who blog to be reviewing a production of the Royal Shakespeare Company, let’s not beat about the bush – undoubtedly a major drawcard for the sell-out season of Lear in New Zealand has been its star Sir Ian McKellen. No stranger to the worlds of screen fantasy, his tenure as Gandalf a few blockbusters ago most definitely moved some ticket sales. Given the buzz on the NZDWFC Message Boards then, it’s only a small step to assume that the casting of Sylvester McCoy as Lear’s Fool didn’t hurt in the telefantasy fandom stakes either.  

But to give the production its due beyond the interest of fans, I was very impressed. Lear is one of the ‘big’ plays of Shakespeare, carrying with it the tradition of older actors having aged into the lead role (but not too far, given the physical demands evident in this production) and no less demanding roles of Gloucester and Kent. It’s been said that McKellen could be a little young for the role at 68, but I had no concerns. His Lear ages through the play convincingly; a tremor in places, hoarseness in the voice, a wounded stoop – all a shadow of the character’s entrance in military regalia and compliment of retainers. His king is a notably physical being from the outset – setting on servants and striking his daughters. The character’s inevitable descent into isolation and madness maintains a solid continuity through McKellen’s performance, despite the parallel Gloucester storyline and subplot of Goneril and Regan.

In these no lesser characters we have also been spoiled – Frances Barber’s Goneril is reliably cold and manipulative, more than a match for her sister, as ably played by Monica Dolan. Barber’s star turn is apparently in the companion play from the RSC tour, Chekov’s The Seagull, but her Goneril is prize stuff indeed. If any of Lear’s daughters do disappoint it is Cordelia who distinctly doesn’t shine but grates; a shrill performance by Romola Garai doesn’t offer the opportunity to infer a doting relationship between father and favourite daughter, and so it’s left to the Fool, mourning her departure after the fact, to convey some of what that opening scene could not.

And so to Sylvester McCoy’s Fool. When I read about McCoy’s involvement in the play I confess I was a little concerned. Knowing his work primarily from Doctor Who I imagined him at a disadvantage among the play’s leads – but he’s great! Another demanding role, Lear’s Fool is burdened with a large number of lines, songs, moods and – in this production at least – spoons. McCoy’s scenes with McKellen alone are playful, but certainly achieve the mounded performance this Fool is duty-bound to continue. The actor’s past life as a stage ‘shock’ performer certainly is used here as well; his hanging by Regan’s men is done onstage and is indeed disturbing. Falling at the conclusion of the first Act, the curtains remained open with McCoy’s body hanging stage left, slowly turning while the audeince rose to seek out refreshments. Creepy.

 Finally, the third of four drawcards for me to this tour: William Gaunt. His Gloucester begins the play much like the king – at the height of his powers with treacherous offspring waiting in the blocks. Gaunt’s voice is as mellow and commanding as ever, and his physical performance as a father betrayed, wounded, blinded and cast out of home is every bit as moving and compelling as McKellen’s. Gloucester’s reunion with his king was heartbreaking stuff, and was the key moment for me in a performance which was well worth admission.  I’m very glad to have seen it.

After three hours the cast received a standing ovation; the greatest applause reserved for the play’s star, but not much less for his fellow leads, Sylvester McCoy’s Fool (who had received warm laughter and applause from a decidedly non-fan appearing house) among them. Well deserved.


Ten things we love about the Tenth Doctor’s Era

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007


1.      Mockney Doc
Most British actors seem to be Londoners who have to attempt Scots accents when necessary.  With typical lunacy, our favourite programme has it the other way around.

2.    Upgraded
From the ‘crustacean abs’ to the sensibly scaled-down earmuffs, the new series Cybermen are yet another design triumph.  Bang up-to-date while still honouring all the best bits of the original – possibly the mantra for the series as a whole.

3.      Freema Agyeman
Not only is the latest Time-totty gorgeous and talented, but she’s even been to Science Fiction conventions – as an attendee!  (Certainly none that I’ve ever been to, though…)

4.      It’s Christmas-time, there’s no need to be afraid…
A Who Christmas Special?  How was that ever going to work?  Thank you ‘Christmas Invasion for being so perfect.  And as for The Runaway Bride, well, see below…

5.      It also travels in space…
There’s nothing more fun than the TARDIS crash-landing on your loo in Tooting Bec, as a wise man once almost said.  And then there was that wonderful motorway chase…

6.      Musicians call it the ‘b part’
The ‘middle 8′ might also be ‘the bit that the announcers talk over’, but thank you Murray Gold, for restoring the full closing credits theme – music to our ears.

7.      Torchwood
An original touchstone which gave us the wonderful Yvonne Hartman, and Freema a foot in the door.

8.      Surprise!
So The Beast really was Satan?  There were Daleks in the Sphere? Last of the Time Lords is set one year later?
Despite spoilerage in the magnitude of the ‘Mr Sec-agoras’ Radio Times cover, the programme can still pull a Kaiser
Söze on us every so often…

9.      Late series random one-offs
Blinkin’ Love & Monsters!  Our regulars get a break and we get alternative charismatic leads for a week.  Everybody wins while the programme explores new possibilities in story-telling -  and we all know how important that is.

10.  The Pits.
When Tennant arrived so did the promise that the programme would leave Cardiff and space stations, and visit alien worlds.  And so a distant planet orbiting a black hole and humanities’ last outpost at the end of time look suspiciously like – quarries!
Hoo-ray!  The more things change…