Doctor Who 50th Anniversary – My Personal Favourites

Now that November is over, I can look back upon Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary and state, with some enthusiasm, that it was a very good anniversary indeed, one of the best I can ever remember. There were lots of excellent Doctor Who items on television, on DVD and in the magazines, but these four were by far my favourites:

In first place, it was the sublime An Adventure in Space and Time, which aired from 9-10.30pm on the night of Thursday 21st November. This was simply the best Doctor Who production that I’ve seen in many years. The performances of all of the actors were exemplary, particularly David Bradley in the role of William Hartnell. Indeed, the ONLY real criticism that I could express is that An Adventure in Space and Time, at under ninety minutes, was too short, hence the need to skip over a number of extremely important details (for example, the vital roles played by Ray Cusick, Terry Nation, David Whitaker and a number of other figures in early Doctor Who history) because of time and space constraints (if you’ll pardon the pun). The drama would have profited greatly by being at least half an hour longer, or even forty-five minutes. Many, many thanks to Mark Gatiss for having the dedication and perseverance to stick with this until The Powers That Be at the BBC gave the go ahead to put it into production.

In second place, and, in my opinion, not very far behind An Adventure in Space and Time, was The Day of the Doctor, which aired on BBC1 on the evening of Saturday 23rd November, from 7.50pm-8.05pm. I usually find most modern Doctor Who specials to be a bit hit and miss, a bit of of fluff filler in between seasons or breaks in seasons. But The Day of the Doctor was excellent. Not perfect, but definitely excellent, and I consider it to be, despite a few minor niggles, without a doubt the best Doctor Who special of the modern era.

In third place, it’s the November DVD release of The Tenth Planet. I’ve been waiting to see this one for a long, long time, and it didn’t disappoint. I’d only seen a few surviving clips before (on the Lost in Time DVD), so being able to see the whole story at last was really exciting. Episode 4 is still missing, but was expertly recreated here in animated form by the same people who animated the missing episodes on the Second Doctor stories The Ice Warriors and The Invasion. Excellent DVD release.

In fourth place, it’s the November 50th Anniversary edition of Doctor Who Magazine, the biggest and one of the best ever editions of the magazine. There was so much good stuff in this one, simply choc a bloc with 50th Anniversary goodness, that it’s difficult to know where to start. But if I had my arm twisted up my back and was forced to choose, my two favourites would have to be Ghosts in the Machine, a behind the scenes feature on the excellent An Adventure in Space and Time, and An Unearthly Beginning, which features never-before-seen drafts of An Unearthly Child. Great stuff!

Those are my four favourites, but there were a number of other notables:

The reshowing of all four episodes of An Unearthly Child on BBC4 at 10.30pm on Thursday 21st November, right after An Adventure in Space and Time ended on BBC2, was one of the highlights

The Science of Doctor Who Special, which aired on BBC2 on Thursday 14th November, at 9pm, hosted by Professor Brian Cox (with a guest appearance by the Doctor himself, Matt Smith), another excellent programming choice

Yet another was the two-hour The Ultimate Guide to Doctor Who, which aired on BBC3 from 8pm-10pm, on Monday 18th November, Part 1 of which was reshown on BBC3 last Sunday at 7pm. Part 2 will be reshown on BBC3, on Saturday 4th January 2014, at 7pm.

There were others, notably:

The three-part Doctor Who: Monsters and Villains Weekend, which aired on BBC3 over three nights from the Friday-Sunday, 15th-17th November

Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited, which aired on Watch at 2pm on Saturday 16th November

These were all good, but the first four were undoubtedly, for me at least, by far the best of the bunch.

November was, overall, a great 50th Anniversary for Doctor Who. With less than a week left until the Christmas Special The Time of the Doctor, and the departure of Matt Smith and the arrival of Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor, the series now moves into its 51st year.

Here’s to the new Doctor and another fifty years of Doctor Who! I hope I live long enough to see it!

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John Freeman on the Doctor Who: Delta and the Bannermen DVD

I’ve always been a huge fan of the classic Doctor Who series, but I’m one of those die-hards who would prefer to think that the old series actually ended when Peter Davison left the show, and who considers the entire Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy eras, with the exception of a handful of stories, to be a complete abomination. Most of that entire period of Doctor Who’s history is such a dire and diabolical embarrassment that it should be erased from living memory. Why oh why can’t crap like this be among the fabled “missing episodes”, rather than all of those missing gems from the Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell eras?

Now you certainly won’t catch me buying any DVDs (with the exception of five or six stories) from this sad period of Doctor Who, but I have to admit that I’ve just spent a pretty enjoyable evening with a mate, perusing the extra features on his latest Doctor Who DVD acquisition, Delta and the Bannermen. A Sylvester McCoy story it might be, but I have to admit that the extras on the DVD aren’t half bad, my favourite among these extras being a piece covering the Doctor Who comic strips of the 1980s.

And you’ll never guess who pops up in the middle of that one. Yes, our very own John Freeman of Downthetubes.net, giving it the old yakkity-yak about his time on Doctor Who Magazine, and the comic strips therein. It’s nice to see and hear John in living, breathing action for the first time (well, the first time I’ve seen him), and in the best feature on the entire DVD, no less.

Needless to say (so why am I saying it?), I watched all the features, but didn’t even bother putting on the main story. Why ruin a perfectly good evening? 🙂