Archive for May, 2013

The Tom Baker Era

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

Faced with the prospect of encapsulating the Tom Baker era of Doctor Who in roughly five hundred words is some task. The man who would play – nay, epitomise the Doctor in his fourth incarnation on and off the screen is simply the sine qua non, without whom the series might not enjoy its twin existence as both popular entertainment and ‘cult’ fascination. Seven seasons, seven companions, four producers and a legacy that to this day means to more than one generation the quintessential shorthand for the Doctor involves jelly babies, curly hair and toothsome grins, and an impossibly long scarf.

Please sympathise with me, then, as I attempt to unravel this almost universal portrait to find the kernel of the Baker era, to disengage the performer and children’s favourite, the formidable talents of men whose names became genres unto themselves in Who – Hinchcliffe, Holmes, Williams, Adams, and seek out a new byword for Doctor Who in the mid to late Seventies. That word ladies and gentlemen is Change.

All series rely on reinvention and on refreshing the sheets from time to time, but Doctor Who in its teens seems to actively seek change out – no two seasons of the Baker era are alike, much less even similar; there is no ‘business as usual.’ In fact the entire run of the Fourth Doctor may be seen as the culmination of several strong personalities attempting to cast their own interpretation of the series on each other, the show tripping from one set of fingertips to another like a ball in a line out toss. The Baker Era – epic, Gothic, didactic, antagonistic, Apocalyptic, satirical, funereal – has a style and feel for everyone. Think of it as a multi-coloured approach, if you will – like a scarf, of variously-flavoured like a bag of jelly babies. It is broad and deep enough to find an audience savouring a wide range of tastes, and in the middle of it all is an actor who gave so much of himself to the role, who literally occupied it as much as it occupied him, that he will forever be Tom Baker, Doctor Who.

 The Baker era tries everything, and occasionally stumbles when budget cuts conspire, but at its height its scripting is consistently high, and Baker’s instinctive performance caries the rest through – if ever an era could be said to have natural charisma, it’s this one. The Doctor, loping from one outlandish scenario to the next, is the most free he’s ever been, and ever will be, escaping a season-long story arc to randomly gad about the universe with his female equal. By season eighteen and the onrush of universal entropy we are given the answer to a final question – can the Doctor remain a universal constant as well, or is he also susceptible to change? The answer this that he does change, and in six years looking back it’s there to be seen most clearly. Say what you may about Tom Baker’s swansong, but for this viewer the image of a Doctor loosening his grip on a radio telescope beam to fall to his death and usher in his next form is one of the greatest moments of Tom Baker’s era, a moment of stoicism and calm, where the Doctor, resolutely Chaotic Good, surrenders his dominion over time and space to change again.

 Change, they say, is as good as a holiday; and for the fourth Doctor this holiday comes in the form of greater exploration in time than his predecessor, a confident eschewing of traditional enemies (after an introductory season, of course) and an indulgent season-long story arc. Space, as script editor Douglas Adams once wrote, is big, and in the space that the Tom Baker Era provides there’s plenty to lose one’s self in.  


Reverse the Polarity! issue 30

Monday, May 6th, 2013


Has it really been almost two years since the last RTP?  That’s twice as long as Eccleston’s entire tenure and longer even than Voyage of the Damned feels to watch.  This time-span means that RTP not only offers us bang up-to-date analysis of River Song’s logic-defying journey (thank you Jamas, you’ve made me feel so much better by pointing out that she actually married a robot), but we also have the conclusion to a strip and brilliant story starring The Tenth Doctor with his blonde and ginga companions, respectively.

Dave Ronayne’s concluding part of Weapon of Choice is a thing of beauty, and perhaps more timely than could have ever been imagined due to the recent screening of Cold War.  But what really makes this piece of fiction a pleasure is that the man really can write, as also evidenced in his Fanboy Confidential piece whereRonayne even makes the sentence “So, yeah, I just don’t know.” sound eloquent.

Personally, Fanboy Confidential has always been my favourite regular RTP feature because it invites the opinion and experiences of a range of fans, but unlike a toxic on-line forum, forces the contributors to express themselves with a degree of thoughtfulness, wit and personal affection for the topic.  I suspect participants might sometimes find Fanboy Confidential a self-revelatory or at least cathartic experience, it’s certainly always a great read.

Lastly, I can put off addressing a certain artist, writer and cartoonist’s colossal contribution no longer.  It’s a Herculean effort which astonishingly still manages to put quality over quantity.  Peter Adamson takes us from Stockbridge toNormandyand then leads the charge through the aforementioned Fanboy Confidential with a delightful collection of orthodontically-challenged caricatures (character options –release them as action figures now!)  And someone please release that Stockbridge map as a poster while they’re at it – gorgeous work.

Throw in my all-time favourite Karkus strip (and that’s really saying something) and RTP 30 is more than worth the long wait.

As Alex says in his editorial, the next issue is planned as a celebration of the programme’s 50th Anniversary.  I urge everyone to take the opportunity to become a part of this very special event by contributing. Think of how proud you’ll feel when your children ask you:  “What did you do in the 50th anniversary year Daddy?” and you can proudly brandish your RTP 31 at the little scamps.  I’ll certainly be on board.


Fast Return – April 2013

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Ah well then. April has come and gone like a Past Doctor cameo wishlist, and now there are only six months and twenty three days ’til the Big Five-O – hooray!

Let’s see what news we had to tickle our fancies this past month:. Cue Smiths music:

Woo! A new issue of RTP! Well we would say that, wouldn’t we? Yes we would. It’s lovely to have a new print zine waiting in the letterbox eeee just like old times (it’s been nearly two years!)
nt sure what a fanzine looks like? Don’t trust those pesky newsgroups and haven’t yet saved enough for your very own Google? Head on over to the RTP blog to see what the fuss is about and how to get your hands on one.
A review will follow on this blog shortly, of course. And naturally, there’s the anticipation of RTP 31/the November anniversary issue…


…the way of thanking the Doctor according to the Royal Mail presumably being to lick his bottom and stick him to an envelope? No wonder traditional post is dying.

And as if by magic, unseen edits from Dimensions in Time appear on YouTube, courtesy of writer David Roden! Look, you can joke all you want (a few have come to mind), but twenty years on and in the time it was set at last (2013 – it’s in the script!) this is dynamite stuff. Yes, it looks rushed and sloppy and unforgiveable in places (poor Jon Pertwee), but it’s genuinely rare stuff and very generous of Mr Roden to share it with fans. A good job comments have been disabled, mind. Wise.

Speaking of surprise releases…

Moonbase! Moonbase is coming out partially animated! The Gravitron! The Phantom Piper! The teatray – oh my stars! Truly a Cyber-themed anniversary (just don’t mention it being a golden one, obviously)
They kept that one quiet, didn’t they?

And speaking of quiet DVD activities…

The Saville Effect allegedly claims another couple of scalps as The Two Doctors and The Sontaran Experiment have been quietly pulled from sale – or at least not hastily restocked? Why? Well, the extras for Two Doctors might explain that one away, but there’s also the repeated footage from Jim’ll Fix It on the Bred for War documentary. Now, the cynical among you might be saying at this juncture “Sell! Sell! No- hold, then sell!” And for sure, there are reports of some ker-razy prices being asked for the Sevillian job on Amazon and the like; and yet there is the hope that a re-release of Two Doctors (come on, it’s Pat! There’s not that much of a Making Of and I want my Comic Assassins-themed Colin and Sock Puppet duet song!) where was I? Oh yes. Hope that a re-release of Two Doctors on DVD might present an opportunity to add some other nice features on. Y’know, to fill that gap…

Speaking of no more gaps:

Oh yes. Some interesting commentary is free in this week’s Guardian courtesy of wunderkind Charlie Brooker on RTD and the death of conversation. No I don’t know what wunderkind means. Good article, though.

And speaking of good reads…

Nice one, Paul.  Writing a book about picture books without being able to use pictures* to do it is actually quite something! And good luck for the Vogels this July!

Okay, enough pleasantness. It’s the Anniversary year, we’re only getting the previous Tenannt in for the November show and fans are ANGRY!!! What would the reaction have been like if this had happened for the show’s tenth anniversary forty (ouch) years ago? Well, this of course.

(Seventies Facebook courtesy of Gav @themindrobber who does cool 3D art and also apparently has a 1983 version of the link above tucked away somewhere.)

And finally…

(Courtesy of the errant Mr Park)
This is for Deb. Who said you can’t have Barrowman for the 50th!

(*yeah yeah we know, there are some cover reproductions in the book. Just sayin’!)