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.

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 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…

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Sci-Fi Film Marathon, Saturday 5th July-Sunday 6th July, 2014

I’ve said several times before that Sundays at our house have become a favourite of mine for sci-fi on TV and DVD, so much so that I’ve taken to referring to the day as “Sci-Fi Sunday”. Well, this weekend was no different, with the local UK Freeview television channels coming up with the goods yet again, airing some excellent sci-fi films over the weekend. The only unusual exception was Channel 5, which most weekends has at least one sci-fi film on, but not this time around (but lots of Disney stuff on today, for anyone who’s into that kinda thing).

The additional plus this weekend was that Saturday was almost as good as Sunday, for a change. This week it’s not just “Sci-Fi Sunday”, but an entire “Sci-Fi Weekend”, during which Film4 hosted no less than four classic sci-fi films, and Channel 4, ITV2 and BBC Three aired one each. Add to that the two sci-fi DVDs that I watched with my friends on Sunday night, and that amounts to quite a sci-fi marathon over two days.

Unfortunately the BBC channels, particularly the two big ones, BBC One and BBC Two, are very poor when it comes to airing any kind of sci-fi, preferring instead to aim for the lowest common denominator and concentrate on an unrelenting garbage diet of soaps, sport and reality TV. I think the BBC considers Doctor Who to be their absolute limit for sci-fi these days, and tough luck if we want anything else. When there’s no Doctor Who on the BBC channels, there’s very rarely any sci-fi at all. If it wasn’t for the news or documentaries, I wouldn’t watch BBC One or Two at all. The same for BBC Three. Aside from a couple of episodes of Doctor Who on Friday evenings, it’s complete crap.

Once again, Film4 was the undisputed champ, with two sci-fi films on Saturday, and two more on Sunday. Saturday afternoon started off well, with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986). Then we did a bit of channel-hopping over to Channel 4 for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), and then it was back to Film4 again for some Arnie in Conan the Barbarian (1982). Sunday afternoon saw Film4 picking up where they left off on Saturday night, with The Phantom (1996), running straight into Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989). The usual Sunday evening visitors started drifting in by that point, so once the Star Trek V film was over, we switched from TV to DVD, with the first part (of three) of the Sci-Fi Channel’s excellent Dune mini-series (2000).

Then it was back to the TV for another film. Given what I said earlier about the BBC channels being very bad for sci-fi, I almost died of shock when BBC Three actually aired Tron: Legacy (2010). This was followed soon after on ITV2 by The Matrix Reloaded (2003), the very good second film in the Matrix Trilogy. Finally, and taking us from late Sunday night into early Monday morning, it was another DVD, the much underrated fourth film in the Alien series, Alien: Resurrection (1997). I’ve heard many people whinge about how bad they think this film is. I disagree with them. I always enjoy it when it is re-run on TV.

I’m slinking off to bed now at just after 4am, exhausted, but very satisfied after two days of great sci-fi films. Here’s looking forward to next weekend! 🙂

Some Interesting Prehistoric Stuff

I love to browse the Sci-Tech page (page 154) on BBC1’s Ceefax (teletext) service. There’s always a lot of interesting snippets culled from various sources such as the New Journal of Physics, Nature and Science magazines. My favourite areas of interest are astronomy and space exploration, and palaeontology, and here are a couple of palaeontology snippets from recent pages:

Apparently scientists in Germany, Switzerland and the US claim that they’ve found the point at which the African and Indian elephants split and diverged from a common ancestor. They compared genetic research done on both species and other research done on the extinct woolly mammoth and mastodon, and came to the conclusion that the split occurred 7.6 million years ago.

Another interesting snippet concerns the dinosaurs. Accepted theories state that when the dinosaurs first evolved, they swept all before them, and rendered the earlier, more primitive forms of reptiles (known as dinosauromorphs) quickly extinct. Apparently that’s considered now not to be the case, and both lived side by side for many millions of years.

Just a couple of interesting snippets from the pages of Sci-Tech. Go to Ceefax page 154, and git yerselves ejjicated a bit. 🙂