Timeless Returns to E4 on 4th April

On Wednesday, 4th April (that’s tomorrow), at 9pm, Season 2 of Timeless begins on E4 (Freeview Channel 28 here in the UK), although it has been already running for several weeks in the US. The trailer has been running on E4 for several weeks now, along with repeats of Season 1.

To say that I’m excited and eagerly awaiting the start of Season 2 would be somewhat of a massive understatement. Season 1 was a surprise “sleeper” hit for me. Despite being a fan of most things to do with time travel, I’ve become a tad jaded in recent years, cynical and disillusioned by most modern sci-fi series. I’ve liked a few, but most of them inevitably disappoint, either by being bland and failing to deliver on their potential, or in the “ho-hum, seen it all a hundred times before” kind of way.

But Timeless was a rare exception, and proved to be both exciting and a lot of fun. The time-travelling jaunts of Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus, and their attempts to thwart the machinations of both Rittenhouse and Flynn captivated me and moved firmly onto my “don’t miss” TV watch schedule. The individual episodes were entertaining and pushed the overall story arc ahead, leaving excellent cliffhangers and anticipation for the next step in the overall story, and the Season 1 final episode cliffhanger was a corker. I looked forward to every episode, and I made darned sure that I never missed one of them.

There was a nasty scare when the series was initially cancelled after Season 1. Like many fans, I was totally outraged that such a fun series was being dropped, while so much utter rubbish was being renewed for a new season (hasn’t that always been the way?). But the unexpected renewal of Timeless after widespread fan outrage brought sheer relief and jubilation, although we’ve had to wait a bit for the start of Season 2.

Well, now it’s almost here, and I can barely wait for 9pm tomorrow night. I feel like a kid at Christmas.

Bring it on!

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Doctor Who New Series, Series 1-4 DVD Boxset

I recently decided it was time to pony up and fork out for the collected Series 1-4 of Doctor Who, the New Series (aka NuWho) from Amazon.co.uk, which arrived via postie a few days ago.

I’ve been threatening to do this for quite a while now, as I’d never collected any of the New Series on DVD (being more of a Classic Series fan), but kept putting it off. But the price was right, just under £40 for the lot (not a bad price for four seasons, considering Series 5 onwards are £20 a pop individually), so I took the plunge.

Thoughts? This is a great bargain, in my opinion. Nabbing Christopher Eccleston’s single first season along with all three seasons of David Tennant’s run is quite a good start for my NuWho collection. There’s a huge amount of episodes, Christmas Specials and extras in this boxset. Overall, a heckuva nice bargain for under £40.

There are five discs in the Season 1 boxset. Discs 1 and 2 contain three episodes each, plus a variety of special features. Disc 3 has four episodes plus special features. Disc 4 has three episodes plus special features. And Disc 5 is comprised of all the Doctor Who Confidential documentaries that accompanied each episode.

Series 2 follows the same pattern as Series 1, except with six discs. Series 3 is the same, also with six discs. Likewise with Series 4. That’s 23 discs and 55 episodes of great NuWho viewing, plus LOTS of special features/extras and a cracking little landscape format booklet with lots of photos and an episode guide.

I’ve been watching the earliest episodes of Series 1, the first three so far, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s easy to understand why the show was so popular when it hit the air back in 2005 (and deservedly so), and Eccleston’s performance as The Doctor was astounding. It’s a great pity he only did one season.

New Doctor Who DVDs, December 2017 (Part 2)

The Shada DVD arrived on the 21st, and a nice box of DVDs landed from Amazon UK today. Everything’s here now except for The Dominators, which was shipped separately and should’ve been here on Friday. Hopefully it’ll get here tomorrow. If not, it’ll either be after Christmas, or it’s gone missing in the post.

Update: The Dominators arrived in the very first post after Christmas, so everything’s here now. I’m very happy with this massive stack of classic Doctor Who DVDs, which should keep me super-glued to the telly for weeks to come. The best Christmas pressies I’ve had in a while, even if I had to buy them for myself. 🙂

New Doctor Who DVDs, December 2017 (Part 1)

I haven’t bought any DVDs in a while now due to the ongoing money being a bit tight situation. But it’s coming up to Christmas, and I have to get my Christmas pressies sorted out. So guess what I’ve ordered myself for Christmas? Yeah, a bunch of classic series Doctor Who DVDs, that’s what. They’ve been dispatched, and are on their way. I reckon I’ll have them Friday, or Saturday at the latest. Here’s what will be in Santa’s Christmas sack for poor ol’ Phil.

  • The Rescue & The Romans (boxset) [Hartnell]
  • The Reign of Terror [Hartnell]
  • The Sensorites [Hartnell]
  • Planet of Giants [Hartnell]
  • The Time Meddler [Hartnell]
  • The Underwater Menace [Troughton]
  • The Enemy of the World [Troughton]
  • The Krotons [Troughton]
  • The Dominators [Troughton]
  • The War Games [Troughton]
  • Shada [DVD] [2017] [Tom Baker]
  • Shada LIMITED EDITION Blu-ray [2017] [Region Free] [Tom Baker]

That’s five Hartnells (actually six, as The Rescue and The Romans are two separate stories in one boxset), five Troughtons and two Tom Bakers (well, one story, but both the DVD and the limited steelbox blu-ray edition of the new release of Shada). Aside from the two Bakers, the others are all 1960s black & white stories, which, as far as I’m aware, completes all of the black & white releases, with the exception of The Gunfighters, on the Earth Story DVD boxset.

Since I started collecting classic Doctor Who DVDs many moons ago, I’ve been working my way up slowly from the beginning of the series to the end, and, as I’ve said, I’ve now more or less completed all of the 60s black & white stories. Next step is to move onto the colour classics and complete the entire run of Jon Pertwee stories, but I’ll leave that until the New Year, when (if) I manage to get the finances sorted out. I already have most of the Pertwee and Tom Baker stories on DVD, but I still need a handful of each to complete their runs. Then onto Peter Davison.

I don’t care so much about the Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy eras. I’ve already got my favourite stories from those (I only really liked two or three from each), but I’ll probably eventually get the rest, just to complete the collection. But to be honest, I never really much liked 90% of the output during those two eras. The first five Doctors was where it was at, story wise, as far as I’m concerned.

Doctor Who Series 10: Episode 1 – “The Pilot”

Earlier this evening saw the welcome return of Doctor Who to our TV screens after a prolonged absense, when the first episode of Series 10, “The Pilot”, aired on BBC1 at 7.20pm.

This is the beginning of not only Peter Capaldi’s final series as the Doctor, but Steven Moffat’s final series as showrunner. We’re also introduced to the new companion, Bill Potts, a “canteen lady” at a university, who has, for some reason unknown to her, somehow been called up for an interview with one of the university’s most prestigious and popular professors, who just happens to be the Doctor, ably assisted by his rather strange companion, Nardole. After her interview at the Doctor’s office, he becomes her “tutor”.

Much of the episode focuses on Bill and her personal life (she may not be the first openly gay companion in the series – that honour goes to Captain Jack Harkness – but she is certainly the first gay, black, female companion). She starts a relationship with a student called Heather, but things immediately take a turn into the twilight zone when Heather shows Bill a weird puddle, which gives “wrong” reflections of the people who look into it.

The puddle is actually an alien “space oil” entity that eats/absorbs Heather and proceeds to chase after Bill in a watery form that mimicks Heather. First to Bill’s flat, then to the Doctor’s office, where Bill, the Doctor and Nardole are forced into the TARDIS, which jumps first to some kind of locked, guarded vault (which I reckon we’ll see a lot more of later in Series 10). Then it’s to the other side of the world, to Australia (where the Doctor has to explain about himself to Bill). The Heather-water thingy follows them there.

Next the TARDIS travels to a planet on the other side of the universe, twenty-three million years in the future. The Heather-entity finds them even there. The damned thing can time travel. It can go anywhere that the TARDIS can go. Finally, the TARDIS lands in the middle of one of the greatest space battles in all of time and space, between the Daleks and Movellans. The Heather-entity follows them there as well. Bill, against the wishes of the Doctor, decides to confront her pursuer, and realizing that the Heather-entity is only following her because of the promise that Heather had made to Bill that “she would never leave her”, Bill releases Heather from the vow, and the entity just melts away and vanishes. It hadn’t been following Bill to harm her, but to invite her to join it (unfortunately she would’ve ceased to exist as a human, just as Heather had). The TARDIS returns to the Doctor’s office, where he tries to wipe Bill’s memory, but she refuses to let him, and leaves, only to meet him waiting outside with the TARDIS, inviting her to join him.

Overall, I quite liked “The Pilot”. It wasn’t Earth-shatteringly brilliant, but it was a pretty decent story, and although quite subdued and relatively low-key, it served as a good introductory episode for the new companion. It was a nice “character” episode, and I thought that the whole introduction of Bill thing echoed strongly the very first episode of NuWho (“Rose”) very nicely indeed. The entire exciting chase sequence later in the episode only lasted a few minutes, but was pretty effective, and I loved the very short “blink and you’ll miss it” cameo of the Daleks vs the Movellans, giving us our first short glimpse of that famous war first mentioned way back in the Peter Davison era.

The short sequence with the Dalek blasting away (totally ineffectually) at the Heather-entity was quite chilling, with it just standing there ignoring the Dalek laser blasts as if they were nothing, and repeating “Exterminate!” every time the Dalek screeched it. It was a strong reminder that there are lifeforms out there far more powerful than even the Daleks. The Heather-entity assuming the Dalek’s likeness makes me wonder what happened to the poor old Dalek. Did she destroy and absorb it, or did it crap itself and scarper? 🙂 The scene where Bill touches the Heather-entity and it shows her all of time and space was also pretty well done. That was a tough one for Bill to turn down, but I reckon the dying and being absorbed thing kinda put her off a bit. 🙂

Anyway, a good start to Series 10. Roll on next week and the second episode, “Smile”.

Happy 50th Anniversary Star Trek!

Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) debuted in the United States on NBC on September 8th, 1966, when I was five years old. It ran for three seasons, and was eventually cancelled due to “low ratings”, much of which was caused by network interference during its second season, moving the show away from its prime time viewing setting to the late Friday night “graveyard slot”, which guaranteed low viewing figures and thus cancellation.

The show was actually cancelled at the end of the second season, but was brought back for a final season due to a remarkable and then-unique massive fan-run campaign, led by Bjo Trimble and her husband John (and, some say, orchestrated by Gene Roddenberry himself) during which fans bombarded NBC with letters demanding the return of the show. The NBC execs caved in and brought it back for a third season. But they were still determined to get rid of Star Trek, and keeping it stuck in the Friday night “graveyard slot” guaranteed that the third season would be its last.

It’s ironic that Star Trek was a originally regarded a failure first time around. It could’ve easily remained nothing but a vaguely-remembered 60s Cult TV show. But history had other plans for Star Trek. Once the show went into reruns, the number of fans increased stratospherically, and the demand for it to return led to the expansion into the enormous franchise and universe that we know and love today. It’s funny how a relatively unimportant Sixties sci-fi series could have grown so much over the years and taken over the world. 🙂

My own perspective, living here in the UK, was different. When Star Trek first aired in the US, I was blissfully unaware of it. I was obsessed with Doctor Who, my first sci-fi “love”, which had been broadcast in the UK since 1963. Of course I was unaware of that, as I was too young at the time, and I only started to really notice the show about 1966 or so. Star Trek came a bit later, and was my second sci-fi “love”, and the two shows have been vying for my affections ever since.

We didn’t get Star Trek here in the UK until 1969. I was five months shy of my 9th birthday when it first aired here in the UK, when “Where No Man Has Gone Before” was broadcast on BBC1 at 5.15pm on the evening of Saturday, July 12th, 1969. I was smitten from the word “Go”, and I’ve been a hardcore Star Trek fan all my life, since the opening minutes of that very first episode, all those long years ago. My life would never be the same again. And I’ll be a fan until the day I die.

Star Trek, along with Doctor Who, have been with me since my early childhood, and have always retained a special place in my heart. They have been the pillars of my sci-fi “self” my entire life. Other sci-fi series such as Babylon 5 and UFO have challenged strongly, but none have ever surpassed these two in my affections.

Once a Trekkie, always a Trekkie: Happy 50th Birthday Star Trek!

Sci-Fi Cinema vs Sci-Fi TV – The Verdict?

I rarely go to the cinema any more, if at all. The last film that I went to see was The Avengers, four years ago in 2012. Before that, it was X-Men: First Class in 2011, Avatar and Star Trek, way back in 2009, and The Dark Knight, in 2008. All in all, I think I’ve been to the cinema no more than a half dozen times since my son died, back in April 2006.

Why? For starters, the cost. Going to the cinema is an expensive pursuit these days, and the cost of admission alone isn’t much less than the price of a DVD. Then on top of that, you have to factor in the transport costs to and from the cinema, plus paying out for something nice to eat afterwards or during the film. It can make for a costly night out, and it just might be cheaper to go to the pub instead.

So is it worth paying that kind of money just to watch a film, particularly when the chances of being badly disappointed by any new Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster are unfortunately extremely high? The quality of the typical big Hollywood sci-fi movie over the past couple of decades has been absolutely dire, especially when we look back at how good the classic sci-fi films of the 1950s-1980s were by comparison. I don’t even bother going to see most films at the cinema at all these days, no matter how much they’re hyped. I simply prefer to wait for the DVD to come out and watch the film in the comfort of my own home. The fact is that, for me, the cinema is no longer the essential large viewing experience that it once was.

In years past, if I wanted to watch the film on a large screen, I HAD to go to the cinema. Now I have a lovely big widescreen TV at home, I can buy the DVD when it comes out, and watch it as often as I like (with subtitles, pause, rewind, etc) in the comfort of my own home, either alone, or with friends. So Why bother forking out a load of cash to go to the cinema, where there are all kinds of annoyances (mobile phones flashing non-stop throughout the film, disruptive cretins yapping incessantly and misbehaving, annoying kids kicking the back of your seat, people walking up and down the isles or back and forth in front of you during the film, the inevitable sore backside sitting on those crappy cinema seats, which makes the last hour or so VERY uncomfortable during longer films, etc), when, for a less than £20, I can have the DVD, a few cans of beer (a pleasant bonus when viewing at home, but strictly verboten in cinemas), and lie back on the sofa and enjoy the film on my BIG television in comfort and in peace and quiet?

But the most important reason? It’s illustrated by a remark made by friend and fellow member (Dennis Howard) over on the FanCentral social network a few years ago. He said (in words to this effect) that he rarely watches (modern) sci-fi films any more, because he’s very rarely impressed by them, and because all of the best sci-fi is happening on television anyway, not in film. It’s a spot-on observation, in my opinion, and one that I agree with very strongly. There’s only so much you can squeeze into a two-hour film, and when you consider that most modern Hollywood sci-fi movies are mostly made up of action sequences, big explosions and special effects, it doesn’t leave much time for anything else. As a result, two of the most important things that should be paramount, but tend to suffer badly in newer Hollywood movies, are the actual stories/plots and character development. I almost always walk away from the cinema afterwards feeling dissatisfied about those two aspects of a film.

This is where television has cinema beaten hands down. Old-style sci-fi television was strictly episodic in nature, with a built-in reset button at the end of every episode. But Babylon 5 changed all that back in the 90s, and today, most decent modern sci-fi series can have intricate on-going plot arcs and sub-plots that simply are not possible in a two-hour film, and the same holds true for the ongoing character development of both the main and the supporting cast. Add to this the fact that modern special effects on TV have reached such a high level of technical quality and sophistication that television sci-fi no longer looks cheap and cheesy, and we can see that most decent sci-fi concepts would be better served in a television series than in a film. Hey, even if the series gets cancelled after one or two seasons (an ever-present danger with the TV networks), we still get a LOT more than we ever would from a two-hour movie.

Sure, I still buy the best of the films on DVD, although they do tend to be older sci-fi cinema classics rather than modern films. But these past couple of years, I’ve turned more and more to television shows, and taken to buying DVD boxsets of classic and modern sci-fi series. I started off with buying classic older series such as Doctor Who, Sapphire and Steel, UFO, The Tomorrow People, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, The Time Tunnel, Timeslip, Children of the Stones, Sky, Quatermass, The Invaders, Fireball XL5, Space Patrol, Moonbase 3, Babylon 5, the X-Files, Stargate SG1/Atlantis/Universe, Quantum Leap, and Star Trek TOS/TNG/DS9/VOY/ENT. But I’ve also been grabbing boxsets of more modern series as they’ve come down in price – Fringe, BSG, Heroes, Smallville, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, NuWho and a few others. I just wait patiently for new stuff to be released on DVD at reasonable prices, and buy them.

I’ve pretty much adopted the same policy as Dennis, to concentrate mostly on sci-fi television series, but take that further to such an extent that my objective has become one of grabbing as many classic sci-fi television series as I possibly can on DVD. Aside from having all these old gems to watch, it also gives me a lot more to talk about here on my blog, on FanCentral, and in any of the other geek forums that I hang out in. Which can only be a good thing, if I do say so myself. 🙂

More New DVDs April 2016

I’ve been buying a lot of DVDs recently, and they keep rolling in, although I think I’ll start switching back to books for a while after this. And for a change, none of the latest batch of DVDs are Gerry Anderson-related.

Actually, the first one up IS vaguely related to Gerry Anderson. Roberta Leigh’s classic puppet show Space Patrol aired on UK television during 1963-64, and was pretty much contemporary with and competition for Anderson’s Fireball XL5, was also set in space, and featured… er… puppets. Add to this the fact that Roberta Leigh was Gerry Anderson’s employer for the first couple of puppet series that he produced, and there IS a strong connection. This particular DVD boxset is the classic six-disc edition released by Network Distribution back in 2003, compiling all thirty-nine episodes plus a nice bunch of extras.

Second up is the gorgeous Network Distribution (Again? These guys are everywhere!) 2015 restoration of Nigel Kneale’s classic Quatermass (1979) four-part, 207 minute serial, plus a bunch of other extras, including the much shorter and heavily edited feature-film version The Quatermass Conclusion plus a nice booklet by Cult Sci-Fi TV historian Andrew Pixley. Also, for good luck, I picked up a copy of the original 2003 Clear Vision three-disc boxset release. The picture quality isn’t nearly as good as the lovely 2015 Network restored version, but the packaging is nice, and the extras are different, as is the booklet, written by Ian Fryer. So it’s well worth having, particularly since I got it at a very reasonable price.

Finally we have Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD, a remarkable 105 minute documentary giving a comprehensive overview of the background history of and crazy goings-on at the (in)famous 2000AD, the various personalities involved, the most famous of the strips, and even sidetracking into the two Judge Dredd films. Totally engrossing, and I’d recommend it to any fans of UK comics.

That’s a great haul of DVDs. They should do me nicely until the next batch arrives. 🙂

Some New Gerry Anderson DVDs (Part 2)

A couple of posts back, I mentioned about being on a roll with buying Gerry Anderson DVDs. Well, that trend is showing no signs of abating. I’ve recently picked up another couple of Anderson items on DVD, so the collection is growing quite a lot right now.

First up is the excellent Network Distribution 2013 DVD boxset release of the classic 1962 series Fireball XL5. We have all 39 episodes of the original series, restored and remastered, one full episode gorgeously recolourised. There’s also two excellent new documentaries, a load of other extras, and a lovely colour booklet by television historian Andrew Pixley. This is a seriously cracking boxset.

Second up, we have yet another Network Distribution release, this time from 2014. We have what is probably the best Gerry Anderson documentary ever made, bar none. Filmed in Supermarionation is almost two hours of fascinating Anderson history, detailing the development of Anderson’s puppet shows and their pioneering techniques from 1957 up until the end of the 1960s. This is a fascinating documentary, and kept me rivetted to the TV for the entire two hours. There are also some nice extras on the DVD

I’ve also just watched the two documentaries on the Fireball XL5 boxset, and they are also seriously good. Now to watch a few Fireball XL5 episodes! 🙂

Some New Gerry Anderson DVDs

Last time out, I posted about a few new DVDs that I’d recently picked up, namely Nigel Kneale’s creepy 1972 television horror film The Stone Tape, and two DVD box sets comprising the entire twenty-four episode run of Gerry Anderson’s classic sci-fi television series UFO.

Well, this time out, I’ve gotten my hands on two more Gerry Anderson DVDs. First up is the 1969 film Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, and second is The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson. I’ve been enjoying both DVDs, for different reasons (I’ll always find something interesting in any Gerry Anderson DVD), and I’ll make more detailed comments on both of them individually in upcoming separate posts.

I’m on a real roll with buying Gerry Anderson DVDs at the moment. I’ll be forking out for a few more Anderson series in the near future – Space: 1999, Captain Scarlet (classic and modern), Thunderbirds and Joe 90 are high on the list. But I have a strong hankering to make my first choice Filmed in Supermarionation. I’ve heard so many good things about this classic Anderson behind-the scenes documentary, but I’ve never actually seen it. So the curiosity is getting the better of me, and it has moved to the top of the list.

I can’t wait to see that one! 🙂

Some New DVDs

Some nice DVDs arrived from Amazon UK today. Two lovely boxsets of Gerry Anderson’s complete classic UFO, all twenty-four episodes (each boxset containing four DVDs), and a BBC ninety-minute television movie from 1972, Nigel Kneale’s classic horror/supernatural tale, The Stone Tape.

UFO has been a huge favourite of mine since I first saw it on local television as a young boy of about nine or ten years old. Up until now, I’ve only ever owned VHS video tapes of a handful of episodes, so it’s nice to finally get the entire series on DVD. I’m going to take my time watching these twenty-four episodes, one at a time.

Nigel Kneale’s classic The Stone Tape is one that I’ve never seen before, and I know of it only by the very high reputation it has acquired over the years. I’m really looking forward to watching this one, as I’ve always been a huge fan of Kneale’s four Quatermass serials, and I’m expecting good things from this one.

Quite a few hours of great telefantasy await my eager attention, so I’m off to watch a DVD. I think I’ll start off with The Stone Tape

Doctor Who: Heaven Sent

Now THAT was a cracker! In my opinion, Heaven Sent, written by Steven Moffat, is a great follow-up to Face the Raven, the best Doctor Who episode in a long, long time, and definitely the best episode of Series 9 so far.

It was dark, scary, moody, mindbending, intelligent – it’s just how I love Doctor Who, and is the kind of episode that we’ve seen far too little of in recent years. With the exception of Chris Eccleston’s excellent single season, Series 9 is the nearest that Doctor Who has come in tone (if not quite in quality) to the Tom Baker/Philip Hinchcliffe era, by far my favourite era in either Classic or New Doctor Who. I was glued to the screen for the entire forty-five minutes, although I’m not too sure if I like the whole “I am the hybrid” idea, at the episode’s climax. If it pans out like that, it would be just a little too silly for my liking.

Peter Capaldi has taken the role of the Doctor by the scruff of its neck and made it his own, and Clara/Jenna Coleman has grown into an excellent companion. I’ll be sorry to see her go at the end of this series. Despite the multitude of rabid Clara haters I’ve seen online (fandom makes me sick at times – there are far too many total assholes out there claiming to be fans), I’m pretty sure that future critics and fans will look back on Clara Oswald as being one of the better companions in the history of either Doctor Who series.

There’s been a certain amount of moaning and groaning on Facebook and elsewhere that, if we see many more episodes like Heaven Sent, “we’ll lose the general audience”. I disagree. Fans who have grown up with NuWho, TRUE fans, and not the “flyby brigade”, who only watch it if there’s nothing better on the other channels, will still stick to the show like glue. I do agree that there has to be a certain amount of balance between the lightness and humour vs the grimness and serious stories, to vary the pace in between the individual episodes, and give us an entire range of the spectrum between extreme the dark, scary stuff and the lightweight fluffy episodes. But this kind of story is so much more my idea of what Doctor Who should REALLY be like. Others may have their own ideas of what Doctor Who should be like, but Heaven Sent is mine.

However, I do concede that there has to be a balance. But the moaners who can’t tolerate ANY heavy, serious episodes at all really get my goat up. They should just clear off and watch airhead sitcoms or soap operas, if all they want is non-stop, upbeat nonsense. We really do need these “deep” stories occasionally, to balance out the lighter, more dumbed down, all flash and no substance single episodes, that supposedly are aimed at the “general” audience and kids (who, these days, aren’t as stupid as the marketers seem to think). Thankfully, with all the two-parters, Series 9 has seen only a couple of these single episodes, and even they were linked. A big improvement on previous years, in my opinion, and I hope that this trend in favour of two-parters continues.

The David Tennant and Matt Smith eras had FAR too many of those dumb single episodes, far too much old silliness, with the totally ridiculous romance nonsense between the Doctor and human female companions, other completely irrelevant, soap-opera-ish, non-Who-ish distractions, and simply too much bad writing. The Matt Smith era, in particular, was virtually unwatchable at times, despite the fact that he himself was an absolutely AMAZING Doctor. He carried the show most of the time, to be honest, and I continued watching it just for him. In my opinion, Capaldi’s arrival, and the complete change in tone of the series, has revitalised Doctor Who, although there are still too many dodgy stories. But hell, that’s always been true of Doctor Who. Lest the rose-tinted glasses crowd forget, the Classic series also had more than its fair share of total clunkers.

It’s not 1966 any more, fer cryin’ out loud. It’s almost 2016, and modern audiences (including kids) are far more sophisticated than they were back in the 1960s and 1970s. And the show is no longer aired at 5.15pm in the evening, but a full three hours later, sometimes not ending until after the 9pm watershed. I can no longer understand the endless obsession with forcing the show into a shoebox where it has to appeal to five year-olds as well as fifty-five year olds. That approach just doesn’t seem relevant any more.

In most cases, instead of more challenging stories, in recent years we’ve ended up with far too many middle-of-the-road, lightweight “fluff” single episodes aimed at keeping kids and general viewers who are not hardcore Doctor Who fans happy, what I refer to as the “Popcorn Who” audience. Personally, given Doctor Who’s current late timeslot, and the fact that the typical modern audience is much more varied and sophisticated than it was forty or fifty years ago, I really think the series should be written accordingly today, and aimed at a similar audience to Steven Moffat’s other excellent show, Sherlock.

I know those “popcorn” episodes are for keeping up the general audience figures, but too many of them and you lose the hardcore fans (like myself). They are just too bland and lightweight, and while I can take the odd one in between the more intelligent, serious episodes, string more than two or three of them together and I’ll give up on that season as a lost cause. Thankfully Heaven Sent was way over at the other extreme, where I prefer my Doctor Who to be. I like my Doctor Who dark, scary and serious.

I’m hoping Hell Bent lives up to the quality of Heaven Sent (and that Moffat will be able to do it two episodes in a row, as this has been a weakness of his with two-parters). If it’s even half as good, it’ll be a decent series finale. And if it’s on the same level of quality, we’re in for one of the greatest series endings in modern Doctor Who.

Happy 52nd Birthday Doctor Who!!!

It was on this day, fifty-two years ago, that the very first ever episode of Doctor Who, An Unearthly Child, was broadcast by BBC One, on the evening of Saturday, 23rd November, 1963. The world of television sci-fi would never be the same again.

This story introduces us for the very first time to a strange, mysterious young girl Susan Foreman (played by Carole Ann Ford) and her even stranger grandfather (played by William Hartnell), who both turn out to be aliens, from somewhere else in time and space. This strange old man would later become known to all of us as the very first Doctor, albeit a much more abrasive, alien, and less cuddly Doctor than most of his successors. We also get to meet the two unwilling new human companions, Ian Chesterton (played by William Russell) and Barbara Wright (played by Jacqueline Hill), who are to become not only the eyes and ears of the audience on the adventures with the Doctor and Susan, but also the very close friends of the two alien central characters.

The first episode of this four-parter is an excellent piece of television, and very different in tone to everything that comes afterward. To a viewer back in 1963, it would’ve been a strange story indeed, as they would’ve had absolutely no idea who the old man and his granddaughter were, what they were doing living in a police telephone box in an old junkyard, or what the hell was going on in general. The new viewer would’ve been just as curious and mystified as Ian and Barbara, as they stepped onto the TARDIS for the first time, taking a huge leap sideways into the twilight zone (if you’ll pardon the obvious pun).

We’d all have been just as shocked and confused as both frightened schoolteachers are at the end of the first episode, as they are whisked off (kidnapped is nearer the truth) into time and space on their very first adventure with the Doctor and Susan. To the jaded modern audience, all of this is probably no big deal nowadays, but back then, there was absolutely nothing like it on British television. What must it have been like watching that for the very first time? It must’ve been an incredible experience.

I didn’t get to see An Unearthly Child until almost twenty years after it was first televised, when it was first repeated on BBC Two, in November 1981. I was much too young to have seen it back in 1963, only a little nipper, really – the third episode, “The Forest of Fear”, was aired on my third birthday, 7th December 1963. It would be another two or three years after that before I would be old enough to start noticing Doctor Who on television, and my very earliest vague memories of the series come from about 1965-66. Ever since then, the show has been a life-long obsession of mine, and today I could never conceive how my life would ever have been without Doctor Who in it. But I’m so envious of those old codgers who do remember watching the very first ever episode way back on that cold November evening in 1963.

So I’d like to finish off by wishing my very favourite sci-fi series of all time a VERY Happy 52nd Birthday. And long may it continue.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DOCTOR WHO!!!!.

Doctor Who: The Zygon Inversion

In less than an hour, at 8pm, The Zygon Inversion, the eighth episode of Doctor Who, Series 9, will air on BBC1, with the second half of what looks to be a very good two-parter, which had a very interesting start last week with The Zygon Invasion.

The Zygon Invasion was definitely a step up in pace from the previous four episodes, and on last week’s showing, this story has the potential to become my second-favourite story of Series 9, behind the excellent series opening two-parter, The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar. There were some potentially interesting plot thingies laid down in The Zygon Invasion last week, so here’s hoping The Zygon Inversion can follow through and deliver the goods tonight. I particularly liked the evil Zygon Clara, with Jenna Coleman getting her teeth into playing a nasty villain for a change, rather than her usual nice-girl companion role. With all the rumours floating around about Clara leaving the series, I’ll be watching what happens to her with interest.

The CapaldiDoc seems to be in a pretty tight squeeze right at the end of last week’s cliffhanger, but he’ll save the day, of course. I’m also wondering how Kate Lethbridge-Stewart came through her encounter with the Zygon last week, although I strongly suspect it was her who survived (again, obvious really). The Zygons seem to be pretty vulnerable in those 5-10 seconds that they take to transform from their human form back into Zygon. That’s five or ten seconds when any trained UNIT member with fast reflexes would fill said Zygon full of holes long before it would complete the transformation.

Anyway, roll on 8pm on BBC 1, and The Zygon Inversion.

Doctor Who: The Zygon Invasion

The Zygon Invasion, the seventh episode of Doctor Who, Series 9, has just started on BBC1. It moves us into the second half of this series’ block of stories, with the beginning of what looks to be a very good two-parter, finishing off next week with The Zygon Inversion.

Great start so far. The Doctor, Clara, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and UNIT face off against the Zygons. LOTS of Zygons. It’s pretty much a sequel to the 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor, with a heckuva lot more Zygons. Of course, there’s a lot of people getting killed and duplicated, and half the time, we don’t know who the hell is whom. But at least we’ve found out now how Osgood can still be alive even though she was killed by Missy in the last series.

A bit obvious, really, when you think of it. 🙂

Doctor Who: The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived

This week’s episode of Doctor Who, The Woman Who Lived, which aired on BBC1 at 8.20pm last night, marks the half-way mark of Series 9. It’s a direct follow-on from last week’s episode, The Girl Who Died, and they form two self-contained stories in a prequel/sequel format, as opposed to the first two Series 9 stories, which were genuine two-part stories. The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived are two different stories, set in different time periods, but both featuring Maisie Williams playing the same character. It seems like Steven Moffat is concentrating on writing in two-story blocks this series, a trend which will continue for the rest of Series 9. That’s okay by me, as I believe two-parters are inherently much stronger than single episodes.

The Girl Who Died was of interest to me mostly because it is written by Jamie Mathieson, the same guy who wrote Flatline and Mummy on the Orient Express, two of my favourite episodes from the last Series (I make a point of looking out for anything written by this guy now). The fact that the story featured Maisie Williams (playing Ashildr) helping the Doctor and Clara fight off an alien (the Mire – not exactly the greatest alien threat in the series’ long history) attack on a Viking village meant that this had the potential to be a good one, and it certainly wasn’t terrible. However The Girl Who Died was only a fair-to-middling story, far from earth-shatteringly brilliant. But compared to the extremely high quality of Jamie Mathieson’s previous two stories, it was a bit of a let-down for me.

Last night’s follow-up episode, The Woman Who Lived, written by Catherine Tregenna, was a stronger story, very well written, with some excellent characterisation and dialogue, and quite a bit of heavy and fascinating morality lens material. The story was also notable in that Clara didn’t appear in it at all until right at the end, making it a Doctor/Ashildr adventure as opposed to a normal Doctor/Clara one. It was interesting on this level because of all the rumours surrounding Jenna Coleman’s impending departure from the series, and there were more than a few rumours floating around hinting at Ashildr becoming the new companion, but that didn’t happen. However, it’ll still be interesting to see if Maisie Williams’ character becomes a recurring one in Doctor Who, as she’s definitely one of the more interesting characters that NuWho has produced in recent years.

I suppose after the incredible series-opening two-parter The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar, it was bound to be difficult for the rest of the series to live up to the first adventure. But, that said, none of the other stories have been terrible so far. The Under the Lake/Before the Flood two-parter wasn’t bad, very moody and atmospheric, and The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived certainly weren’t bad stories either, but they certainly suffer by comparison with such a classic series opener. I mean, that story had the Daleks, Davros, AND Missy/The Master. It’s certainly hard to top that, although the upcoming Zygons two-parter also promises to be a good one.

I think the problem with the past three stories is that they’ve been fairly strong character pieces, but the aliens seem to be a bit of an afterthought, in comparison to the first story’s roster of classic villains. However, Peter Capaldi has really grown into the role of the Doctor, and the Doctor and Clara are an excellent team now. I consider them to be one of the better Doctor/Companion pairings of the New Series.

Here’s looking forward to next week’s episode, The Zygon Invasion, the first of a two-part Zygon adventure.

Doctor Who: The Woman Who Lived

The Woman Who Lived (written by Catherine Tregenna), this week’s episode of Doctor Who, will be starting shortly on BBC1, marking the half-way mark of Series 9.

The Girl Who Died was an okay story, although not earth-shatteringly brilliant. I suppose after the incredible series-opening two-parter, it was bound to be downhill the rest of the series. At least none of the other stories have been terrible so far. And the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) are really getting along well as a team now, and I consider them to be one of the better Doctor/Companion pairings of the New Series.

We were wondering whether or not Steven Moffat was giving us another two-parter. Well, he is and he isn’t. The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived are two different stories, set in different time periods, but both featuring Maisie Williams playing the same Ashildr character. They are basically a prequel/sequel. It’ll be interesting to see if Maisie’s character will become a recurring one.

Coming Up Soon – Doctor Who: The Girl Who Died

This week’s episode of Doctor Who, The Girl Who Died, is starting in just over twenty minutes on BBC1. We’re almost half way through Series 9 already. It only seems like a week or two since it started!

The Girl Who Died is of interest to me because it is written by Jamie Mathieson, the same guy who wrote Flatline and Mummy on the Orient Express, two of my favourite episodes from the last Series. I make a point of looking out for anything written by this guy now. The fact that the story features Maisie Williams (playing Ashildr) of Game of Thrones fame is good enough, but the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) get to fight some nasty aliens alongside Vikings. Yes, Vikings! Should be fun. 🙂

There’s some confusion over whether or not this story is the first part of another two-parter. The title of next week’s episode – The Woman Who Lived – definitely implies some connection. Time will tell. It always does. 🙂

ADDENDUM: So, it’s a two-parter without actually being a two-parter. Two self-contained stories in a prequel/sequel format. Sneaky one, Moffat.

Doctor Who: Before the Flood Starting Soon!

Only a few minutes left before the start of Before the Flood, the second part of last week’s opener, Under the Lake. I can’t believe we’re at episode four of Season 9 already!

Under the Lake was a pretty good start, a nice homage to the classic Doctor Who “base under siege” theme. Hopefully Before the Flood won’t let us down as a climax to the story. We all know that the Doctor/Peter Capaldi won’t really get killed, but let’s see you wriggle your way out of this one with good storytelling, not sonic sunglasses pseudononsense.

Come on guys, let’s give us a first in NuWho – not one, but TWO good two-parters in a row!

Doctor Who: Under the Lake Starting Soon!

Under the Lake, the third episode of of Series 9 of Doctor Who will be airing on BBC1 in about ten minutes, at 8.25pm. I know nothing about the story (I’ve been avoiding spoilers like the plague) other than what I’ve seen in the trailer, which looks suitably spooky.

Under the Lake has a lot to live up to, following on the heels of the cracking two-part opening story. I’m really looking forward to it, but after such a great start, I hope it’s not a matter of “the only way is down”. Here’s hoping that Moffat & co. can keep the momentum going for the rest of Season 9.

ADDENDUM: Now THAT was a surprise. I was never expecting another two-parter right on the heels of the first one. It looks like Steven Moffat has been taking on board comments from fans wanting longer, better-developed stories, which has always been my main beef with the modern series. I definitely approve.

This was a nice, creepy one, another classic “base under siege” Doctor Who story. Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman are on fine form as the Doctor and Clara, and, in my opinion, are really clicking together as a fine Doctor-companion team. Capaldi is becoming a very fine Doctor indeed, just as I knew he would.

Here’s hoping that next week’s Part Two is as good as the first one.

Thunderbirds Turns 50!

Yet another classic telefantasy series has it’s birthday today (September sees a lot of that kinda thing). Thunderbirds has hit the big Five-Oh.

It’s 50 years since old favourite kid’s (and big kid’s) series Thunderbirds premiered on British television, way back on 30 September 1965. The pilot episode, “Trapped in the Sky”, was first broadcast on the ITV network’s regional channels ATV Midlands, Westward and Channel Television. Other ITV regions, such as ATV London and Granada, didn’t start transmissions until the following month.

Thunderbirds was the fourth Supermarionation puppet show, following in the footsteps of Supercar, Fireball XL5 and Stingray, and it ran for two seasons and a total of 32 episodes. Maybe it wasn’t my absolute favourite Anderson puppet series (that was Captain Scarlet), but Thunderbirds has always remained the most popular of the Gerry Anderson series.

Oh, and HAPPY 50TH BIRTHDAY, THUNDERBIRDS!!! 🙂

Doctor Who: The Witch’s Familiar is On TV Tonight!

The Witch’s Familiar, Part Two of the Doctor Who season opening double-parter, airs on BBC One at 7.45pm tonight. It’ll be interesting to see how things turn out for Clara (Jenna Coleman) and Missy (Michelle Gomez), and how the complex relationship between the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Davros (Julian Bleach) may or may not have begun. And the Daleks. Oh, yes, let’s not forget the Daleks! 🙂

Given how good Part One, The Magician’s Apprentice was, I’m really looking forward to tonight’s episode, while hoping that it lives up to the potential of the first one. In general, I greatly prefer two and three-parters to single episodes, as they are less rushed and give a lot more scope for story and character development. However, an unfortunate tendency of the Moffat-era two-parters is that they have great first parts, but slightly disappointing second parts, which almost always fail to live up to promise of the first episode.

Here’s hoping that The Witch’s Familiar does not fall into that trap, and turns out to be a cracker.

Doctor Who Series 9 Episodes Listing

Saturday past gave us the first episode of the new Series 9 of Doctor Who, The Magician’s Apprentice, and a cracking start it was too. Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman reprise their roles as the Doctor and companion Clara Oswald, and this first episode alone gave us a cracking story and a whole bunch of guest stars, including Missy (played by Michelle Gomez), Davros (Julian Bleach), and Daleks. Lots of Daleks. How’s that for a great start?

In the spirit of avoiding spoilers, I’ll leave a more detailed analysis of the story until a later date. I’ll say only that it was the first episode of a two-parter (unusual in itself, as two-parters are almost always season-enders – I don’t recall any season ever beginning with one), and to say that I’m REALLY looking forward to Part Two is putting it mildly. I hope that it lives up to the first episode, as these two-parters have an unfortunate tendency to start off brilliant in the first episode, but fade away disappointingly in the second.

I’ve been going out of my way to avoid seeing any spoilers on the internet, on TV or in magazines, which can be incredibly hard to do, especially when you spend as much time online and read as many magazines each month (including Doctor Who Magazine) as I do. I’ve been trying to come to the new series knowing absolutely nothing in advance, for maximum impact and surprise. Until I saw it on television, I knew absolutely nothing about the first episode, other than it had the Doctor, Clara, Missy and the Daleks. I don’t want to know the storylines or synopses in advance. So I’m trying to avoid anything like that like the plague.

Anyway, here’s a listing of the episode titles for Series 9, with zero spoilers.

Episodes:

  • 01. The Magician’s Apprentice
  • 02. The Witch’s Familiar
  • 03. Under the Lake
  • 04. Before the Flood
  • 05. The Girl Who Died
  • 06. The Woman Who Lived
  • 07. The Zygon Invasion
  • 08. The Zygon Inversion
  • 09. Sleep No More
  • 10. Face the Raven
  • 11. Heaven Sent
  • 12. Hell Bent

Roll on Saturday and The Witch’s Familiar!

Doctor Who Series 9 Starts Today!

I’m looking forward to the rest of this evening, just sitting here, eagerly awaiting the start of The Magician’s Apprentice, the very first episode of the new Series 9 of Doctor Who, which begins very shortly, at 7:40pm, on BBC1.

Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman return as the Doctor and Clara, and I won’t give away much, other than to say that this one features both the Daleks AND Missy/The Master, and the Doctor goes missing, leaving Clara forced to do the almost unthinkable – team up with Missy to find him! So it should be pretty interesting, to say the least.

Roll on 7:40! 🙂

Happy 50th Anniversary, Lost in Space!

 

Here’s yet another anniversary, hot on the heels of Star Trek’s 49th. This time, it’s the 50th Anniversary of Lost in Space. I remember spending quite a few Friday evenings and (later) Sunday mornings watching re-runs of this on UK television during the early 1970s.

Irwin Allen series were VERY popular on UK television during the late 60s and throughout the 70s, usually on ITV, in opposition to the likes of Star Trek and Doctor Who, which were the mainstays on the “other channel”, BBC One (we only had three channels on UK television back then).

Happy 50th Birthday to the Robinson family, Doctor Smith (“Oh the pain, the pain”) and the robot.

Again, this one comes courtesy of a reblog from Trek-extraordinaire author Dayton Ward and his excellent The Fog of Ward blog. Go read this blog. Seriously.

The Fog of Ward.

Mr. President? Status control on Jupiter II: As of this moment, the spacecraft has passed the limits of our galaxy–it’s presumed to be hopelessly lost in space.”

And so it was that on the evening of Wednesday, September 15th, 1965, that the world’s first interstellar exploration ship, carrying with it Professor John Robinson and his family along with pilot Major Don West, began an epic journey into the depths of the universe and our imagination. All of that sounded great in theory, until that pesky Doctor Smith found a way to screw up everything.

LostInSpace-S1logoYep. Lost in Space is 50 years old today.

Damn, right?

Premiering on the CBS network one year ahead of that other big science fiction TV series from the late 1960s, Lost in Space was, essentially, a space-based re-imagining of the Swiss Family Robinson. In fact, Gold Key Comics had even beaten the show to…

View original post 1,027 more words

Happy 49th Birthday, Star Trek!

 

Tonight marks the 49th Anniversary of the first screening of the classic Star Trek: TOS on US television, with the airing of “The Man Trap” on Thursday, September 8, 1966. Due to some strange network mental gymnastics, they managed to air this one, which should have actually been the FIFTH episode, first, and they aired the pilot episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, third. Go figure.

We poor, neglected souls over here in Ireland and the UK had to wait until July 12, 1969 before we first got to watch Star Trek on UK television, when it started in the traditional Saturday evening 5:15pm timeslot usually occupied by Doctor Who. Unlike in the US, we actually started with the pilot episode, although from that point on, there seemed to be no rhythm or rhyme to the sequence that the BBC showed the episodes in, and the series was not shown in airdate or production order.

The series was actually also shown over four seasons, rather than three, and some episodes were edited for violent content, with three of the episodes, “The Empath”, “Whom Gods Destroy” and “Plato’s Stepchildren”, not shown at all during the first run due to concerns over “sadistic elements” in the stories making them unsuitable for the series’ early “children’s” time slot. We had to wait until 1992 to finally see those episodes during a repeat re-run. To add to the insult, the episode “Miri”, which WAS shown in the initial run, was not shown again until 1993, due to “audience complaints” after the first screening. What a complete bunch of WUSSIES!!!

Just by coincidence, I’m sitting here right now with one of my friends, watching some classic TOS episodes on DVD. We started off with “Devil in the Dark”, then onto “Errand of Mercy”, which has just ended, and now we’re starting into “The Alternative Factor”. We’ll be finishing off with “The City on the Edge of Forever”, one of my favourite all-time Trek episodes, from ANY of the five series, and “Operation: Annihilate!”, another classic.

Extremely enjoyable night ahead for myself and friend, and oh yeah… Happy 49th Birthday Star Trek!

Doctor Who New Series 8 DVD Box Set (Part One)

Doctor Who - The Complete Series 8

I’ve just recently gotten my hands on the Series 8 DVD Box Set of the new Doctor Who, and I’m about to give it the once over. I’ll be posting my opinions here, quick, general impressions first, followed by more in depth thoughts on each episode as I watch them.

I’ve only ever seen these episodes once, back in 2014, when they originally aired on BBC One here in the UK. I recall being quite impressed with the performances of Peter Capaldi in his first season as the Doctor, and companion Clara Oswald, played by Jenna Coleman. I also remember liking most of the the twelve stories (although some more than others), with the exception of The Caretaker, which I didn’t see at all first time around for some reason or another. It’ll be interesting to watch The Caretaker for the very first time, and. I wonder if my opinions of any of the other eleven episodes will change on viewing them second time around.

I’ll be making comments on individual episodes in a follow-up post, but here is a listing of the total contents of the box set.

Episodes:

  • 01. Deep Breath
  • 02. Into the Dalek
  • 03. Robot of Sherwood
  • 04. Listen
  • 05. Time Heist
  • 06. The Caretaker
  • 07. Kill the Moon
  • 08. Mummy on the Orient Express
  • 09. Flatline
  • 10. In the Forest of the Night
  • 11. Dark Water
  • 12. Death in Heaven

Special Features:

There are two long featurettes, and a number of shorter ones. Obviously, I haven’t seen any of these before, so at least that’s some more new material for me to watch. Starting off with the two longer featurettes, followed by the other shorter featurettes :

Doctor Who – The Ultimate Timelord
Doctor Who – The Ultimate Companion
Inside the New Tardis
Casting Peter Capaldi
Writing the New Series
What Is Doctor Who?
Why Watch Season 8?
Music video of Foxes performing Don’t Stop Me Now

There are five discs in all, which should provide a lot of good viewing for several evenings at least. Further comments will be coming soon, as I actually watch the contents.

Doctor Who – The Beginning (DVD Box Set)

The Beginning UK DVD

Recently, I decided to conduct an interesting experiment in total immersion in classic Doctor Who, go right back to where it all started, and start watching my Doctor Who DVDs in order, starting with the earliest episodes first.

Well, you can’t get any earlier than The Beginning three-disk DVD Box Set, which contains the first three Doctor Who adventures, starring (of course) William Hartnell as the First Doctor, his granddaughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford), and the very first companions, Ian Chesterton (William Russell) and Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill).

The Beginning is an excellent box set, and the three stories it contains – the first thirteen episodes of the classic series – are, fortunately, complete, with no episodes missing. It’s the fourth Doctor Who adventure, Marco Polo, before we run up against the first of the Missing Episodes. Unfortunately this classic Doctor Who historical adventure is entirely missing from the BBC Archives, although it still exists in audio format.

The Beginning US DVD

The three stories in the box set – An Unearthly Child, The Daleks and The Edge of Destruction – lay the foundations of everything that came afterwards, from the first appearance of the mysterious Doctor and his granddaughter, to the first appearance of his most iconic adversaries, the Daleks. There are also quite a few fascinating featurettes on the three DVDs, a few of them oriented around the behind-the-scenes developments during those dim and distant days when the series was first created. Fascinating stuff!

I will be posting my thoughts here in this blog about each individual story as I watch the DVDs. I would also recommend that anyone who considers themselves a serious Doctor Who fan should do the same as I’m doing, and watch these earliest episodes, in sequence, maybe one a day to get more of the feel of their original appearance on television. Sure, these old stories can be a bit slow and are radically different from modern frenetically-paced Doctor Who, but they’re also the well from which all modern Doctor Who springs.

I find these early classics absolutely fascinating, both as television and as historical artifacts, and I strongly believe that they are required viewing for all true Doctor Who fans.

Andersonic Issue 19 Is Out Now!

Andersonic #19

The latest issue of one of my favourite fanzines, Andersonic Issue 19, has been out for a while now, so I reckon that it’s long past time that I gave it a plug. So, what has Richard Farrell and his Merry Crew dished up for us this time?

As per the details on the Andersonic website, the current issue features:

  • Mary Turner interview – a new interview with Century 21’s sculptor/puppetry supervisor in which she discusses her work at Century 21 and the later Cinemation series.
  • Ken Holt interview – Ken talks of his time working at Century 21 on the later puppet series, UFO and The Investigator. What links a bi-plane, green paint and a very unfortunate ram?
  • Space:1999/ The Black Sun – a look at David Weir’s first draft script for this popular episode.
  • Thunderbirds at 50/ Still Flying High – our writers look at why Thunderbirds has endured to become Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s most popular series.
  • UFO/The Cat With Ten Lives – Alexis Kanner has a strange feline all over him. We look at one of UFO’s finest episodes.
  • Strip Story – a look at the Fireball XL5 strip ‘Electrode 909’ from the heyday of TV Century 21.
  • Reviews – we review ‘Filmed in Supermarionation, the Network box set and Bringers of Wonder on bluray. Plus back cover art by Richard Smith.

Andersonic is, by far, my favourite fanzine focusing on all things Gerry Anderson, from puppet shows, to the live TV series, to films, to the modern CGI series. These days, most fanzines are usually some kind of electronic publication – PDFs/ebooks or websites. Andersonic bucks that trend. It’s a genuine, traditional, “real” paper/print, high-quality A5 zine that you can hold in your hand and collect, just like the classic zines of yore. These days, when the classic print zine is a bit of an endangered species, zines like Andersonic are rare, precious gems.

It contains 44 pages of gorgeous articles, reviews and artwork, and has black & white interiors, and colour covers, front and back (both interior and exterior). And at only £2.75 (not even the price of a pint of beer), and with postage free (within the UK only), it’s an absolute steal.

All self-respecting fans of Gerry Anderson and the series he has produced over the years really should be reading every single issue of this zine. Go get yourselves over to the Andersonic website and buy a copy, right now!

Another Doctor Who Night In (Part Four)

Last time out, I mentioned having a nice evening in watching a couple of classic Doctor Who DVDs, namely the first and third stories from Season 16’s Key to Time sequence, The Ribos Operation and The Stones of Blood. I’ve already given my views on The Ribos Operation, So, on now to The Stones of Blood.

The Stones of Blood has always been, by far, my favourite story from the Key to Time sequence, and is one of my Top 3 from the Graham Williams era. It features an excellent script by David Fisher, and a great cast, with particularly strong performances not only by the regular cast, but by fantastic supporting characters Professor Emilia Rumford (played by Beatrix Lehmann) and Vivien Fay/Cessair of Diplos (played by Susan Engel).

I found the aliens in this story to be pretty interesting. I loved the idea that the Ogri (the Stones in the title of the story) were a silicon-based lifeform that fed on blood. A pretty good variation on the vampire theme. I really wish the Ogri had made a reappearance in the series, rather than being “one-hit wonders”. Likewise the alien justice machines, the Megara. And the Cailleach, the Celtic goddess who is actually 3,000 year-old alien escaped prisoner Cessair of Diplos, who carries the Great Seal of Diplos, which is actually the next section of the Key to Time, and who also controls the Ogri. And the alien prison ship itself, which is in hyperspace, but which also happens to occupy the exact same space in our world as that between the stones. Entertaining and fascinating sci-fi concepts – this story is positively overflowing with them.

There’s even the almost-compulsory cult, led by their crazy High Priest (de Vries), who worship and serve the Cailleach. Doctor Who seems to have an obsession with taking pokes at cults and religions, which is all fine by me, as I tend to share those views. As a matter of fact, there are TWO stories featuring cults in the Key to Time sequence, the other one being the hilarious Swampies in The Power of Kroll. The scene where the cult are about to sacrifice the Doctor also gives us one of the best lines in the series, as Tom Baker looks up at de Vries, who has a knife raised in the air, and says “I hope that knife has been properly sterilised”. Cracking line! 🙂

Overall, The Stones of Blood is a fantastic story, full of inventive ideas, good acting, and which moves along at a cracking pace. It’s one of the very few Doctor Who stories from the Graham Williams era that I’d argue holds its own against the classic Hinchcliffe era of the series. Great stuff!