Archive for August, 2013

The McCoy Era

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Like all of us, no Doctor is born fully-formed. The lifespan of a Time Lord’s incarnation is one marked with gradual change, his personality shaped either by encounters with adversaries old and new, or the shifting relationships between companions and colleagues. Off-screen, this change is brought about by show runners or (in the classic series) producers, script editors and in most instances on record at least, the lead actor himself. In the instance of Sylvester McCoy’s tenure this is certainly the case on record, and in the short lifespan of the Seventh Doctor, this change is probably the most abrupt yet; superficially a gear shift from quirky, bumbling tramp-clown to murmuring inter-dimensional schemer in the space of the season gap between 1987 and 1988. As the Doctor says in Delta and the Bannermen there may indeed be “many a slap between a cup and a lap”, but the radical shift in tone that would usher in its follow-up bar one, Season Twenty-Five’s opener Remembrance of the Daleks, would also firmly establish for many fans the definitive Seventh Doctor, fittingly set against his oldest and deadliest foes.

We attribute much of this change to the popularly-termed ‘Cartmel Masterplan’, a loose set of threads guiding the Seventh Doctor through his remaining eight UK-made stories and, via Masterplan alumni Andrew Cartmel, Ben Aaronovitch and Marc Platt, into Virgin’s New Adventures as well.  As the era of Sylvester McCoy also marked a coming-of-age of would-be future fan writers in the New Adventures, it’s important too to see where they took their cues from in McCoy’s televised stories. To this end, perhaps more weight has been added to some spurious material than was initially intended (for example, Delta’s Stratocaster scene, championed in The Discontinuity Guide as a sort of proto-Cornellian signifier; not to mention the infamous deleted scenes from Remembrance) and, I‘d argue, maybe too much was heaped also on Dragonfire as an Ace story. And yet, from these simple moments, a great and diverse run of novels sprang, solidifying the form of an incarnation which is still being portrayed in Big Finish audios to this day, the Seventh Doctor now a master of manipulation, setting even his next incarnation’s future up ahead for him before his own time runs out.

This piece, however, is not about those stories, or what followed the TV series and its cancellation, but what came before. The passage of time has, it seems, been a little less kind to the era of Sylvester McCoy, with Twenty-first Century eyes casting unforgiving appraisals upon its trappings of Eighties Who; the raucous synthetic soundtracks, video format and shrill theme music. Once the top cat of DWM surveys, the Seventh Doctor now languishes with his predecessor in the lower leagues, and yet this reversal of fortune can be a useful thing in itself. Twenty-five years on from Remembrance of the Daleks and all it seeded those New Adventures are not so easily come by, and their recasting of the Seventh Doctor is less ubiquitous outside a Big Finish subscription. Inadvertently, the consigning of Virgin’s fan baton to deeds past has forced a review of the Seventh Doctor as a screen incarnation first and foremost, and despite DWM polls and forum drubbings on balance that’s really not a bad place to start at all. There are stories within the McCoy Era – The Greatest Show in the GalaxyBattlefieldGhost LightSurvivalThe Curse of FenricThe Happiness Patrol, which have the capacity still to surprise and intrigue with this mercurial incarnation, and which are now stripped of the off-screen series and their adherence to repeated memes. Granted new eyes, the brave and bold conceits of the Cartmel and, indeed, the McCoy Era, are available once more to be experienced.



A New Age

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

And so, a new Doctor. In less than six months, another incarnation will spring from the amber flames of Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, and our favourite Time Lord will be physically and emotionally reborn.

The casting of Peter Capaldi the past weekend has certainly provided a lot of press, a lot of fan conversation. By far it seems the greatest issue fandom is currently wrestling over is the perceived age of the Doctor – that is to say (if it ever needed saying), Capaldi’s actual age, 55. Capaldi is, as has been pointed out variously, the same age as William Hartnell was when he assumed the mantle of Doctor and defined the character in doing so. The Doctor has always been an old man, but we live in a time when age – youth in particular, is power, and the advancement of age is treated with suspicion and, in some quarters, derision.

I wish Capaldi a smooth ride. Criticisms of an actor’s age and their ability to portray a lead are for the most part blinkered and simply unfair – Sir Ian McKellen is 74, played Richard III at the same age as Capaldi is now, a title role which would kick-start his Hollywood viability with tremendous force. Clint Eastwood was playing action roles well into his fifties, while Capaldi’s fellow Scot Sean Connery (the same age as Eastwood) was, at Capaldi’s current vintage, shooting Highlander – and this is to number a few male actors of a generation back, Capaldi’s critics might well note that Liam Neeson is 61, and Sean Bean and Paul McGann are not far from Capaldi’s age at 53. What matters to new Who‘s more recent fans is perhaps that since 2006 the role has been filled by young men, and the character has shifted with this perception. Vitality, virility and vivacity are all hallmarks of the Doctor in his latter years – so where does a leading man confidently striding his way past middle age take such a role, and where also does Steven Moffat, the man who cast him and steers the character in equal measure?

It’s an intriguing prospect, hinting at some significant gear-changes to the character of the Doctor and the nature of the show. A more seasoned-looking Time Lord might carry a new authority where he previously had to punch above his weight (an aspect teased at with the first of the Young Doctors, Peter Davison), and presumably presents new challenges and nuances. Are we to make of this that the Doctor will be once again an outwardly older soul, like his earlier incarnations? Can we expect that the physical demands of the role will be reduced out of necessity (both Tennant and Smith played on through back injuries, it should be noted) or passed to a younger – maybe male, companion as under Hartnell? Will the companion-Doctor dynamic, remodelled and ret-conned post-2005 to something akin to romance – requited or not, change again? And to that end, would the through-line of this relationship – for some fans the essence of the series and their identification with its leads, be removed or dramatically changed, and in having been changed become a storyline in its own right?

For the first time in a long time I’m eager to find out, and if online chat and conversations with friends and workmates indicates for the moment, Peter Capaldi’s casting seems to have woken a new interest in the series and the character. Doctor Who is a show about change, with the character’s Protean nature at its heart; under Steven Moffat the Universe seems to have been subjected to increasing change, revision and reinvention.  Would it be too much to ask of those among the Doctor’s fans mourning the departure of a ‘young’ Time Lord embrace this latest change as well?



Monday, August 5th, 2013



As seen in a vocal corner of Fandom earlier today (Warning, contains SHOUTING, SWEARS, SELF-HUMILIATION and is probably not what your boss might want to hear you tuning in to at work) 

Kids, stay above this line…


The New Doctor:

Monday, August 5th, 2013


Fast Return – July 2013

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

Nothing happened last month. NO-THING!!


As near to quashed as you could get without being quashed yourself. And yet a small hardcore cling to the tales of a friend-of-a-friend-who-knows-a-bloke. The well may in fact be dry – weird thought, isn’t it?

Debunked via Twitter by the man hisself! Couldn’t you just SPIT?

To be revealed at 7pm tonight? Codswallop!!!

Try 6am tomorrow morning in NZ instead. The one time international date lines beat us to the punch – Oh man, it’ll be yesterday’s news by then!

Oh, but Mr Moffat he say he’s been lying his ‘ass’ off for a month now, so it’s anyone’s guess. And if you find any of the above hard to believe.

Impossible… to draw that is! Yes, courtesy of Mike Farmer, Clara Oswldwinohpleaseyourself finally debuted in the DWM comic strip. And in some panels, it even looks like her! A bit.

 I have nothing to segue into the next bit, so I’ll just say:

Yes, sir! Mathematical prodigy and fan whipping boy est 1981, Adric as played by Matthew Waterhouse, is set to return to Who in audio form. Woot! Squee! Zowie! This is excellent news, even if it’s only for one story. But quick, BFP – get a few stories for Adric with Tom in while you’re at it?  

For all your would-like-to-have-certain-characters-in-28mm-but-y’know needs, Crooked Dice present yet another Tweedy Mattinson accompanied by his chum Clara, plus, a favourite of this parish, feisty temp Miss Temple. Go get ‘em, boys.

And finally…

And if 28 millimetres is simply too small for your tastes, feast your peepers on a re-voiced ad for Character’s latest round of plastic diversions: