Archive for April, 2011

The Doctor’s Best Friends

Monday, April 25th, 2011


On the new series’ return Zeus Blog takes time out to mark the passing of two of the most beloved and irreplaceable Earthbound heroes of Doctor Who.

Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart was many things to Seventies Who. To the Third Doctor he was anchor, millstone, combatant, ally and friend. The friendship carried on into the next regeneration, as it had itself carried over from the Third Doctor’s predecessor. Courtney’s Brigadier character would go on to appear alongside all of the ‘classic’ series Doctors, plus for Big Finish sharing an audio adventure with the Eighth Doctor. For many fans and even a few casual watchers of Who in yesteryear, the Brigadier was quite simply as much a staple of the programme as the TARDIS, the Daleks, and the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. Courtney’s association with the series predates his most famous role of course, and it’s a matter of no surprise that during the series’ Wilderness Years the actor was a frequent presence at conventions, TV appearances (notably in 1993′s Thirty Years in the TARDIS documentary), while the Brigadier returned in licensed books and the fan-made spinoff Downtime. Following the death of Jon Pertwee Courtney was made honourary president of the DWAS, a role he held with great respect.

I think it’s significant that the treatment of Courtney as an elder statesman – a stand-in Doctor almost, was as far as I’m aware, reciprocated with fan respect. The Brig’s cameos in the Nineties are no less silly than the regular appearances in later Pertwee episodes, and there seems to be a genuine fondness associated with them – Downtime gives him a family and a grandson to fight for; Paul Cornell (no Pertwee fan at the time) brought him into his New Adventure Happy Endings with a gentle elbow nudging – the Brigadier as naff Dad tapping his feet to a camp Silurian musical duo. There’s a nod to the slightly embarrassing but harmless paternal side to the character, never seen in the TV series of course, but while playing against the Man of Action type, Cornell’s ageing and softening of the Brigadier acknowledged the same in the actor, forgiving and acknowledging the passing of years rather than condemning them or sweping them under the carpet as we are wont to do with the various Doctors. The Brigadier represented in that figure a very human hero. Cornell later gives the Brig his years back, as it were, the UNIT soldier restored by alien tech; would that real life could have offered the same reprieve. The Brig – and Nicholas Courtney, was fandom’s friend too. Grateful for the role that defined his career, his other appearances in the series marked the same return favour by his writers – in Big Finish’s adventures he cameoed as Wolsey the TARDIS cat, and later still as a personification of the TARDIS itself, both loyal to the end. Of course it’s a great shame that Courtney never got to share the screen with the recent Doctors, but what we still have is an impressive series in itself, an evolving character who mellows with the affection shared between himself, the Doctors, and their fans.

In Elisabeth Sladen’s Sarah Jane Smith the Doctor had a new type of companion, a reinvention of a woman with a professional career, enlightened enough to challenge her place in a modern society, but with the warmth and sympathy that would attract the Time Lord’s’s friendship. Sarah is the median line of companions, a Barbara Wright with the Doctor as her Chesterton. Strong enough in personality and appeal to warrant two attempts at a series of her own, not because her character was endowed with special powers or insight (although the later spin-off generously afforded her an arsenal of technologies to almost equal her with the Doctor), but because she was nothing special, and for that we could recognise her and perhaps ourselves in her.

What’s remarkable is that Sladen’s character though her easy appeal and the influence of her original UK fans around today’s BBC genuinely spans two generations, realising yet again Tom Baker’s oft-related image of the whole family sitting down to enjoy Doctor Who together. It’s a great pity, and it seems so unjust that this potential has been cut off so quickly and suddenly. All the more distressing for her fans, her friends and colleagues – Big Finish had reportedly begun negotiations on returning Sarah Jane to their audio fold, accompanying the Fourth Doctor for the first time since 1976. With Sladen gone the question might well be asked who among those remaining companions of the Classic Series now best suits the mantle of ‘everywoman’ to the alien Doctor, the next-in-line as it were. It’s a question that’s too soon for the asking, if it ever should be.  Sarah Jane hasn’t gone away, she’s just not here anymore. But we have her adventures with no fewer than seven Doctors (eight if you count her guest role in the DWM Seventh Doctor comic strip End of the Line), the one-off K9 special and three complete series of her own Adventures to share and enjoy. It’s fitting though, perhaps, that of all her successors there hasn’t really been another Who girl quite like Sarah Jane – variously alien, younger, less English, less or more metropolitan… indeed, they broke the mould soon after her arrival in The Time Warrior. But what a mould. And what large footprints to leave to this day.

Splendid chaps, both of them.


New Zealand’s Hottest Home Baker

Friday, April 8th, 2011


Okay then. This weekend is Armageddon in Wellington, and Colin Baker is our feature Doctor. John Leeson’s here too, but we think he can look after himself well enough. Yes, it’s Old Sixie – robust, convivial, extroverted. A national treasure, yes? Well, any Classic Whofan would think the same if not moreso of Paul McGann when he visited a year ago, and yet In Our Humble Opinion last year’s Wellington event made a right ‘Pamela Nash’ of that.

Now, we’ve not organised an event any bigger than a video screening ourselves, but then we never went into business screening videos, so we plead ‘amateur’ anyway. Maybe it’s rude to tell someone how to do their job without the appropriate background ourselves, but hell, we’re cash-paying audience members from way back, and we think we know a little bit about what it is to be entertained, and how to tell when a rare opportunity to see a Doctor in the flesh in these remote regions offers itself. So then, courting controversy with common sense as our trusty lieutenant, here are Five Things you absolutely shouldn’t do to your Doctor Who guest at Armageddon. Informed by what happened to Paul McGann last year, of course.

1. The Lead-Up
Bearing in mind who your guest is – especially if they only played the part for a couple of years or one evening, and who they might or might not appear to be once they alight the stage (particularly if the years have altered their appearance from their Dalek-bothering days), DON’T settle for playing something on the auditorium big screen from another Doctor’s era. Or the present era. Or a one-off Comic Relief skit where the Doctor is played by anyone else but your feature act (let alone an established bona fideBBC-imprimatured Doctor). It’s confusing, and when your request for a show of hands regarding who had seen that flick before is met with a resounding number of hands, well you shouldn’t be surprised if further bewilderment follows for the main event. Here’s a tip: play something of theirs. Hey, even a fan-made You Tube mash-up of their greatest scenes to an emo track will do.

2. Introducing the Man
Announcing a few ‘housekeeping details’ and finishing with “Ladies and Gentlemen Colin Baker” might work for a regular Who fan gaggle of thirty years or more in vintage. But DON’T assume the audience is full of your chums paid up and ready to hear the eyepatch joke on more time. Think of the kids, the ones who don’t know much about Whopre-Eccleston, let alone pre-Tennant. And then think about the work your guest is going to have before them explaining that no, they didn’t meet the Ood. That way they won’t have to begin uncomfortably and apologetically, blinking under the stage lights and addressing a shuffling audience out there in the darkness, having to explain who they are again.

3. At Home on the Stage
Really push the boat out on this one. After introducing them and warming things up with a few patsy questions continue the good vibe by ensuring a smooth performance. For example, block off the ‘back of stage’ area so that twonk in the costume made out of KFC and pizza boxes doesn’t wander through the action on his way to the loos. And DON’T broadcast  Twilight poster signing announcements over the PA every five minutes and over the top of your speaker. It’s really unnerving, and nobody on the day got up and rushed away to find a big marker pen for the occasion anyway.

4. Frequently Asked Questions
be embarrassed by this. Patsy questions and the like get things going smoothly, especially if your guest has a history of being uncomfortable in large convention situations. Even the UK events have the odd Gary Russell, Nick Briggs or Nick Pegg to get things going and steer the questions away from Yet Another Mention Of The New Series. Also, if there’s ten minutes to spare at the end of things, your guest isn’t then tempted to wander off resignedly, thanking the audience with a “you’re weird” remark.

and finally, on the positive side.

Bespoke clothing for your guest, particularly if they’re known for not being mad about their original outfit is a surprising and rather cool idea. Hey, here’s another idea – didn’t Colin have what’s widely regarded as the worst clothing ensemble of all the Doctor’s incarnations, and hasn’t he often regretted not having his own input into the look of his incarnation? And DON’T you think it would be cool to help him out with this one too, and give him a sonic of his own as well?

Fast Return – March 2011

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011


Right then, here we are once more.

It’s all getting a bit weird in the Ian Levine stable of digging up the past to play with it again. Some might consider Shada without Tom an outrage, others Downtime with added Sylv and a folly, and the least said about recasting pretty much everyone but Sevensy in The Dark Dimension the better. But revisiting Dimensions in Time as well? Too far! Too soon!

Mind you, if he’s into voice artistes for the new generation he could do a lot worse than look up this bloke…


‘Tis true, the makeup’s all wrong. And very creepy. But if you can forget the Weeping Angels and shut your eyes a tic he doesn’t sound half bad!

Trailers! Teasers! Prequels! (By the way BBC, that word ‘prequel’? I don’t think that means what you think it means). The new half series can’t come soon enough – particularly as we run the great danger of seeing most of it before it’s even aired, surely?

Nice. To the point, a little bit MAD, and not too precious.
…Hmm the name sort of rings a bell but we can’t quiteplace it. A nice figure though, and an excellent proxy for any WWII-themed tabletop game you might want to play. Such as this one. 

Back to the nu series though…

Words fail me, Mr Gaiman. It’s a wind-up, right? based on a wind-up? After all, this from the same season that promises to spill the beans once and for all about the identity of River Song  you’d expect there to be a bit of a cosmic story title shell game going on. Right? I mean, you wouldn’t squander such an illuminated writer on an idea like that, right? RIGHT??

Apaarently so. No new major CGI in classic DW releases post- well, probably post-Day of the Daleks. Of course it doesn’t bode well for Invasion of the Dinosaurs but we all knew that was the case. Times are tough anyway, better get used to those rod puppet dinos after all!

At least we’ve got this to look forward to. McGann might be out of the star stable at Big Finish, relegated to the regulars stable after the utter bloodbath that was To The Death, but heeey! Confirmation at last that Baker the First is aboard for some life off Magrs and non-BBC Audio action. AND we get some companions alongside too! Leela and Romana 1 (well, you would, wouldn’t you?) lest we end up getting ourselves confused with Unclehorse over on the NZDWFC Board we’ll cease with the obvious and posted earlier elsewhere news. But really, this we’re quite looking forward to.

And that’s yer March for the month!

Hello Dad!

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

So nice, after a couple of months that have brought sadder news in the world of Who, to have some good news (and an easy to remember birthday for the Fifth Doctor’s granddaughter.)

Hearty Zeus Pluggian congratulations to David Tennant and Georgia Moffat on the birth of their daughter Olivia.


(In other news, Fast Return to come within the day)