Archive for November, 2007

Peter and Verity

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

The sudden deaths of two significant names in Doctor Who fandom last week merit more attention – even local attention, than has perhaps been given. Any fan will be able to tell you that Verity Lambert was the series’ first producer, the BBC’s first female producer and held both titles at a relatively tender age (27) in what was itself a young industry. The series’ popularity and formula, BEMs included, owe an insurmountable debt to her influence and guidance.

Bereft of a genuine female Doctor, Verity Lambert is- was, the programme’s elder stateswoman. In a way she never truly left the series; for like the Doctors who followed Hartnell and reprised their roles in various guises, her connection with Doctor Who was concreted by fandom, fan press and fan conventions and media. But fandom, as we all know, carries its own memory, some of it false and some of it selective. While we can issue forth the Received Knowledge of identities like Verity Lambert solemnly and with a little authority, it doesn’t get us any closer to who she was before and after the series, how it influenced her, and the true legacy she leaves behind. Make the time and read some of those obituaries outside of the DW blogs and websites and rediscover a remarkable woman who not only produced the first ever Doctor Who with no series bible, heritage or fan audience, but also ventured into sitcoms, crime thrillers, whodunnits, soap opera and film. Who also resurrected Quatermass and launched the careers of Lynda la Plante and Sam Neill, and who for her sins, gave the world Eldorado.

The Times and The Guardian give great kudos to Lambert’s contribution to television especially without dwelling on the Who hagiography, but for a change of pace Janet Street Porter’s personal memories of Lambert as printed in The Independent offer something quite diferent and quite worthwhile. Who knew the series’ original guardian angel to be so prickly and obstinate? A testament to her early success, one can imagine – and more than likely, to the Doctor’s also.

The passing of Who biographer Peter Haining may have been felt more keenly several years ago while his works were still very much in circulation. As it is one would be hard-pressed to imagine the likes of The Key to Time or The Time-Traveller’s Guide on bookshop shelves now amid the multiple garish ‘official’ series guides. It’s true that even in the early works Haining’s books appeared alongside those by Jeremy Bentham, Howe Stammers and Walker, and of course John Nathan Turner; but to a good number of fans of a certain age, Haining was the big name, and his books were the gateway into fandom – especially for those not readily able to engage with other fans. My first and only Haining book is 25 Glorious Years which I saw advertised, saved up for and ordered from an Oamaru bookshop, and pored over intently during the series’ silver jubilee year, comparing what little I’d seen of Colin Baker to the photos inside, and wondering what the new Doctor, Sylvester McCoy would be like. As other creative fans have doubtless done I studied the artwork within and attempted to equal Colin Howard’s still masterful pointillistic portraits, and whole fanzines could be filled with the hand copied images of rare or destroyed episodes from an age when there was no Internet, no Wikipedia, no Image Archive to draw from.

Haining’s works became decreasingly influential and necessary as new names entered the arena, but those books were the groundwork for what followed, and beyond Who his cult and telefantasy influence was felt in similar regular guides to the canons of Sherlock Holmes, James Bond and Dracula, and a reliable run of classic ghost stories. As regular and reliable as the typeface titles on those volumes, Peter Haining was fandom’s collator before fandom took over the job and improved on the format, and his presence in the pages of a plethora of fanzines – New Zealand ones included, is a truth seldom acknowledged.


Kroton and on and on!

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Release the Kroton!

The Krotons is one of my [JE’s] favourite stories of all time, and that alone means it should be released on DVD (although that’s not likely for any time soon, given the current focus on completing seasons). There are some great performances in this story by all the actors, Philip Madoc makes an appearance, and Wendy Padbury avoids flashing her knickers is a rare moment of modesty.

And there are the Krotons themselves. Whilst not mentioned as often as the Quarks, they still get mocked by the fans, and yet their costumes are rather good… at least the top half, the lower half are just pants… or rather, a bad cardboard skirt, but still. They are a rather unique enemy in Doctor Who, being largely crystal based, and have managed to set themselves up quite the society.

On the features side, aside from the usual talking heads, this is obviously a perfect point for (another) Robert Holmes documentary, as this is his first story and all. (And maybe an anti-documentary on incidental music?) Another possibility for a decent chance at doing something different, this story was a replacement for the supposed leaving story for Jamie, Dick Sharples’ The Prison in Space, so could develop that into a feature, maybe even a reading (the story summary has been given in DWM), perhaps even read by Frazer Hines? Alternatively, a look at the unmade Robert Holmes story Aliens in the Blood.

Five-by Shooting

Sunday, November 18th, 2007


They (well… he) said it would never happen, but finally we get our first multi-doctor story of the new series in the form of the Children in Need special, Time Crash.

And what a lot of fun it was too. Davison stepped back into the role effortlessly, and he and Tennant obviously enjoyed firing off each other. The conundrum of how to explain away the age-old old-age question got sorted with a throwaway line, the half-moon glasses made a welcome comeback and continuity references abound (is the second mention of the Mara a subtle hint…?).

Quite what non-fans would have made of it I don’t know, but based on the audience figures, this potentially could be the biggest story of the new series. which means that mentions of Tegan, Nyssa and Time Lords with weird collars  obviously didn’t stop the general public from lapping up the first new story in 5 months.

But damn you Steven for making me get misty-eyed again (though not to the extent of the last 5 minutes of School Reunion thank god… don’t want to go through that experience again anytime soon).

And so now we wait for Miss Minogue and an iceberg. Fingers crossed.


October 2007

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007


Er, we’re not sure. Didn’t your holiday end a month ago, matey? 
(Thanks, incidentally, to Jamas who did report for duty) 

TSV 75
Talk about turning up late to your own party…

We were told the Master would never come back. It happened. We were told that Kylie was just press speculation. It happened. Now the last ‘it’ll never happen’ statement has been ripped up with the news that we get our first multi-Doctor story! Now if only they’d got back Mary Tamm and Lalla Ward, we could have made all Aarronn’s fanboy dreams come true all at once.

We’ve managed to catch the first episode – usually we’re champions for any new Who, rallying against the fandom screeches of dismay… but we’ve gotta join you lads. it’s pretty bad… especially as kids tv!

WTF? Are you mad, Jonathan Lawson? You want to show it to a child? A CHILD??? May we suggest Barney instead. It’s much less likely to cause permanent damage, and the dinosaur effects are much more convincing.

[Spoiler warning...ON!] (more…)

Dead Beat?

Monday, November 12th, 2007


Guest reviewer: David RonayneThe Sound of Drums really is a guilty pleasure.  I watch, and on some critical level I’m sucking air through my teeth thinking “ooh, this really is a bit sloppy and pandering to the fans”, but on another, more basic one, I’m going “yeee-haa!”

From the almost casual dismissal of the previous episode’s cliff-hanger to the fanhappy shots of Gallifrey (new CGI, old costumes) the episode does suffer from Empire Strikes Back syndrome.  Quickly clearing the decks, and exposing Saxon – all  before the opening credits, followed by a quick run-around to set up McGuffins (TARDIS keys, Jack’s teleporter) and the cliff-hanger for next time. It doesn’t really stand as a story in its own right, but it does it all in such a classy fan-tastic way.  I say classy, because while I was grunting and smirking at the screen my wife loved it, but didn’t any of the references.  I’m not sure I could handle this every week, but just for once it is nice to see them “let the docs out.”

RTD takes his usual swipe against American politics and populist spin (looks nice but no actual policy) with blasts from the past all along the way; Little Britain; Out of the Unknown; “falling from the skies” – a possible Wormwood reference;  jelly babies and chips; the Master’s “hypnotic voice”; the Teletubbies/Clangers; the Sea Devils; a faithful human companion (name checking the old “Doctor’s wife” joke from the JNT era, just like the “secret brother” story); the TARDIS keys emit a Douglas Adams SEP field; nice big red Warner style sticks of dynamite; the Doctor previous dealings with PMs (Cabinet rebuilt, Harriet Jones) as well as mention of every present day invasion since the series rebooted; the “you did this – you voted Saxon” reminiscent of the speech in V for Vendetta; numerous plugs for Torchwood; the Valliant confirming Jack’s place as the new Captain Scarlet, with the TARDIS hidden behind the door with the big Thuderbird 4 logo; the End of the World (again) and for once it’s not the Doctor telling everyone to “Run!”

Even the Master’s laser screwdriver looks good – who’d have sonic? (Although the point of the Lazarus system was that it was based on sonic technology, oh well.)

All this, and tantalising hints of a past we haven’t seen – what did the Master do for Lucy’s father; and what happened to his other blonde from the security service; the Time War, the Dalek Emperor at the Cruciform.  I worked out who the spheres were fairly late into the piece – the irritating child’s voice of one of them being a little too reminiscent of the cute kid last week, especially with the talk of the impending darkness.

Ultimately a good setup with some nice character pieces.  Jack’s “you too, huh” line continues the trend of adding more to his character in throwaway scenes that was ever revealed in his own series, though the Doctor’s line about fancying someone a little too aware.  Again Martha shows great gumption, but John Simm steals the show with the perfect balance of brilliance, evil and craziness (and lets be honest, the best lines, and nifty red lined jacket).  All that’s missing is someone to make a joke about the Master’s “balls of steel”… well, maybe not.


Reprinted with kind permission from Reverse The Polarity! issue 25

Image of the Fendahl

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Release Fendahl!

Image of the Fendahl is one of my [JE's] favourite stories of all time, and that alone means it should be released on DVD. This story is really about atmosphere and builds and delivers this in spades. From the hitchhiker opening, the glowing skull and the creeping terror of the Fendahl, this story could send anyone behind the sofa.

Unfortunately this story is let down by the eye-makeup they put on Wanda Ventham, but other than that there are some great effects (the Fendahl themselves) and some great performances (who can forget Daphne Heard’s ‘that bain’t no way to make fruitcake!’). Striking a terrific balance between horror and comedic touches, this story is a classic even among the Williams oeuvre. 

For this release, I’d be happy with a vanilla edition. If they were stretching, they could do a feature on how to make the Fendahl, a make-up examination of Thea/Fendahl Core, or maybe an exciting look at the Doctor’s scarf (which was changed for this episode, despite some later stories being made earlier with the original scarf)!