iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
imageA while ago we watched the recently rediscovered Second Doctor tale 'The Enemy of the World' on DVD (a present from my wonderful wife). Since my Hartnell and Troughton knowledge is shamefully poor compared to my knowledge of later Who, I had no knowledge of the story except for the 'high concept' premise: world dictator Salamander is a dead ringer for the Doctor. I don't even remember reading the novelisation. I suppose I was expecting some kind of Man in the Iron Mask storyline in which The Doctor must impersonate the dictator, but - although much of the story is driven by this concept - it seldom actually happens. What we get instead is a very enjoyable spy thriller, quite tightly edited and pacey in contrast to much 1960s Doctor Who (we get next to no recaps at the start of most episodes).

Episode one is particularly action-packed, with a helicopter and hovercraft providing probably the greatest concentration of real hardware in one episode until Pertwee's swan song 'Planet of the Spiders'. Subsequent episodes are more studio-bound (with some of the most painfully cramped 'outdoor' scenes ever committed to videotape.) But despite that the story fair barrels along without the usual quagmire of capture-escape-recapture that plagues six-parters - partly because of the slightly bizarre left turn it takes around episode 4. (The worst I can say about the pacing is that the Doctor spends too much time sitting on his hands, but given that Troughton is pulling double duties that's understandable). It's a highly melodramatic story, and the late plot twist involving Salamander's buried secret stretches credibility almost to breaking point, but David Whitaker's deft script never loses control of its pulpy twists and turns. Unlike some Who from the era, this holds your attention right to the end.

Troughton's performance as would-be dictator Salamander is broad, particularly the 'interesting' choice of a thick Mexican accent, but he's utterly unlike the Doctor and really shows his versatility. (It's notable having seen Orphan Black that the two Troughton characters don't share the screen until the finale, presumably a by-product of production constraints). In fact Whitaker crafts several strong characters who transcend their various 'types' - notably including an extremely capable female character in Astrid, and a rounded black female character in Fariah - with the help of a mostly excellent main cast.

It all wraps up a tad swiftly and conveniently, hinging on one too many character reversals and convenient coincidences, but not enough to mar a thoroughly enjoyable serial.
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Finale)
Frankly if there weren't a few plot holes in THAT there's no justice in the world.

Spoilers for Doctor Who - The Big Bang )
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Tomb)
Eleventh Doctor and AmyA new teaser image from the upcoming Doctor Who season, featuring the Doctor and Amy in silly poses, some returning and new monsters, and a swirly blue time vortex that looks like the Tom Baker credits reimagined in computer graphics. Wonder if the background is part of the new credits sequence...

We also caught up on some ye olde Doctor Who recently. City of Death is a serial I have very vivid memories of watching as a child in the 1970s: Scaroth revealing his one-eyed face, his spaceship exploding, the trip to renaissance Italy, the multiple Mona Lisas, the time bubble that accelerates egg into Chicken, and vice-versa. It's all there in my mind's eye. Fortunately this one holds up surprisingly well, even going back to it after all this time. Although we're moving into his later, less uniformly successful, years in the role Tom Baker is a joy. The location filming in Paris is effective (even if it gratuitously packs in every Paris cliche going, and seems to feature endless shots of the Doctor and Romana aimlessly wandering), and the pacing is snappy, particularly for vintage Who. Douglas Adams' (pseudonymous) witty script doesn't hurt, either. It's not an absolute classic, and in common with a lot of old Who there's a certain sense of gabbled exposition and rushed anticlimax, but it's very solid.

Next up was Masque of Mandragora, an earlier Tom Baker story featuring Sarah Jane Smith as the companion. In contrast to 'City of Death' I seem to have no memory whatsoever of watching this when I was younger. All my vague recollections come from the target novelisation. That makes watching it slightly surreal since I broadly remember key elements from the book, but imagined them completely differently. Viewed with modern eyes this one has a script, acting and production values that feel significantly above the baseline standard for 70s Doctor Who. There's a vigour to the characterisation that reminded me of a Robert Holmes script, and the renaissance setting really works; the Doctor fits in seamlessly into an era poised between superstition and scientific discovery. Seeing actors like Tom Piggott-Smith in essentially Shakespearean garb helps my suspension of disbelief immensely, and the setting is aided by unusually convincing location filming in Portmerion (looking not too much like The Prisoner). The set-up also feels unusual, with the Doctor being essentially responsible for the threat. There are a few wobbly sets and creaky special effects, and like 'City of Death' the denouement is rushed, but there's a lot to enjoy. Plus there's a blatant sequel hook at the end. Come on Mr Moffatt, you know you want to...

Logo-polis

Oct. 6th, 2009 08:09 am
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Tomb)
The new Steven Moffat era version of the Doctor Who logo has arrived. They announced it this morning. Yes, they announced a logo. Yesterday they announced the announcement. Sadly the ridiculous over-hype worked on me, and I turned up at 8 am to see it.



I'd put it behind a cut but it'll be all over the internet within... well it's probably already there.

My response? Hmmm. It's... a Doctor Who logo. The actual logo is nicely retro only with a new font, harking back to the first two logos the series ever had (I'm sensing a retro theme from Moffat, what with the Doctor's costume and the rejuvenated look of the Tardis plus St. John's sticker.) The Tardis version of the logo is gimmicky tosh. Let's hope we don't see a lot of that one.

ETA: It's interesting to me that Moffat is changing quite so many aspects of the show to launch his new era. Doctor, companion, Tardis (the interior is rumoured to be having a few changes), logo, plus presumably credits and maybe a remix of the theme? Usually regenerations cause so much nervousness that they like to contrive as much continuity as possible to reassure the viewer. This approach is certainly confident. But, particularly coming off such a popular and iconic Doctor as Tennant, will it alienate people or shed a chunk of viewers who feel that 'their' Doctor Who has finished?

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Dalek Fandom)
They've done what I would have done and dressed him older to contrast with Matt Smith's relative youth. Sort of like Indiana Jones in his day job, actually, but with modern footwear

.

Not blown away by it, and less impressed than I was with Tennant's first costume reveal, but it works. This is an official BBC release, but now we just need some proper promo pics.

EDIT: More pics here.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
Yay, bank holiday!

Apropos of nothing in particular, I indulged in a bit more nostalgic Doctor Who watching recently.

'Battlefield' starring Sylvester McCoy was the extended DVD version. While it's one of the Seventh Doctor's better outings (i.e. it's not utterly unwatchable), it's very stilted. In general it feels like it was shot on a shoestring budget in approximately two days with no time to rehearse. (Which knowing Who is probably exactly how it was shot.) McCoy does his best to appear, by turns, mysterious, impish and brooding, but I remain utterly unconvinced that he's any of those things. Worse, I can't help feeling that the Doctor is written significantly better than he's played, which is never a good feeling to have about the lead character. Likewise Sophie Aldred as Ace gets a lot of gushing teenage behaviour for which the actress seems too old. There are a few decent scenes and likeable supporting characters, and a welcome return for Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier. Oh and a cool blue demon. But overall: meh. Sorry, Tim!

'Image of the Fendahl' starring Tom Baker is better. Okay, it feels like it was shot on a shoestring budget in approximately two days with no time to rehearse, but at least Tom Baker is convincing. The story is an odd pastiche of 'Quatermass and the Pit', involving ancient aliens from Time Lord mythology who have somehow influenced human evolution. The plot is woefully illogical and under-explained, to the point where it feels like key scenes must be missing. On the plus side it has Chris Boucher's usual crackling dialogue and pin-sharp characterisation, and a very decent supporting cast. I have no recollection of watching it my youth so I can't lean on nostalgia with this one, but I do remember the novelisation which probably helps.

On a related-ish note, here are a couple of BBC News videos:

An interview with Russell T Davies about completing filming on his (and David Tennant's) era on Doctor Who. (It includes the trailer for 'The Waters of Mars' special that aired after the Easter special.)

A five minute interview with Richard Dawkins that barrels through all the questions you'd expect, against a ticking clock, and gets Dawkins's usual precise answers.1
--
1 Dawkins is of course best known for his cameo in last season's Doctor Who finale (not to mention being married to Romana mk II), but has probably done a few non Who-related things in his life.

Easter

Apr. 14th, 2009 08:34 am
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
Had a great Easter weekend involving no (count it) no work, and lots of relaxing. We had friends over for most of the weekend which was fun.

We did a pseudo-BBQ on Saturday (cooked indoors, eaten outdoors to ensure that Janet didn't get any undercooked meat) which was lovely. We did some potato and tomato 'curry' as a side dish which in no sense is a curry involving only some chopped potatoes, tomatoes and onions fried with mustard seeds, turmeric and coriander. Very nice, very mild.

Then on Sunday the sky was blue and the sun was hot so we pottered around the garden fixing and weeding things while Janet's brother carved a new paddle for his canoe. The cats helped, of course. Here's Charcoal helping:



More helping here. Pixie helped too, but in a more sedentary way.

On Saturday night we watched Doctor Who (what I thought), which included a nice shout out to Tom Baker's first story 'Robot', but was otherwise slightly dull.

On Sunday we also watched Skellig on Sky, in which John Simm continued to be as great as he is in everything not called Doctor Who. I was expecting something slightly twee and cosy, which it was in places, but mostly it was surprisingly honest, real and edgy for a kids drama. A bit low key and moody, but otherwise quite interesting. It's possible that the moral is to talk to scabby-looking strangers, but I'll let that pass...

It's a good job we had the nice weekend because the weather has been relentlessly foggy ever since. Yesterday with sea fret (but we had a nice pub lunch anyway). Today with full-on fog and low cloud extending well inland. Chilly, dank, and gloomy. But at least we had a lovely Easter.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
Janet is now the proud owner of a black 16GB iPod nano 4G. It's shiny. It's curvy. It's tiny. It even has a motion sensor so you can play little marble-rolling games -- for some reason. Considering that this is an upgrade from an old mp3 player that only had space for three albums, she's very pleased.

We saw the Watchmen trailer at the cinema for the first time today, and it looks great. I also [via [livejournal.com profile] percyprune] really like this viral marketing for Watchmen in the form of a faux-historical news article on Dr Manhattan. Really nicely done.

And finally for [livejournal.com profile] snowking on the occasion of Hoggmas, hot on the heels of the Steampunk Cyberman comes a competition to design a Steampunk Cylon. STOMPY.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
Barack Obama will meet Spider-man in an issue of the regular comic. Spidey will apparently save Obama's inauguration from a supervillain. Apparently Obama admitted to having been a Spidey fan as a kid, Marvel got wind of this, and one thing lead to another, yadda yadda yadda. Look, I'm not making this up, okay? Although looking at some of the panels they're previewing, I kind of wish I were. Edit: also their Obama likeness is *terrible*.

These caricatured Doctor Who figures are *so* cute. Many more here. Not that I understand the point of collectibles. I still get occasional catalogues through the door from Forbidden Planet, and the entire catalogue from start to finish is pretty much composed of TV and movie characters done as figures, figurines, busts, miniatures, plates, T-shirts, scarves... Does anyone actually need 17 different figurines of Buffy in every outfit she ever wore? Or a tastefully sculpted tableau reproducing a scene from Ghostbusters? I mean, where do you put this stuff?

Meanwhile Outpost Gallifrey reports on the quite excessive lengths the BBC went to in order to prevent word of the new Doctor Who leaking out ahead of their announcement. (Can't seem to link to the article directly, but it's dated Jan 6th on that page).

And finally, it looks like Watchmen will get released as planned, probably after Warner Bros agrees to pay Fox huge sums of money. I would normally have no strong feelings about which company profits from a given franchise, but it's hard to read this open letter from the Watchmen Producers without concluding that Fox are a creatively bankrupt bunch of money-grubbers.

The New Who

Jan. 3rd, 2009 06:15 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Dalek Fandom)
Well, I can say with absolute certainty that they've cast the right hair for the job. If I was going to cast any hair for the role, it would be his. That's Time Lord hair, right there.

Whether I'd have cast the rest of Matt Smith I'm less certain, but since Moffatt apparently shared my instinctive desire to cast someone older I'll have to assume his audition was Just That Good. It'll be a looong time before we find out for sure.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
There's a very thoughtful opinion piece on the BBC website entitled "Is Barack Obama black?". It's a response to comments about Obama that frankly I hadn't even been aware of. I think the article makes some very wise points about artificially absolute definitions of race, and also the societal nature of the labels we apply to people. And indeed even if Obama is regarded as mixed-race that makes his accomplishment no less great, albeit less symbolic.

Rumours continue to circle around Paterson Joseph as a contender for the next Doctor Who, and he certainly seems interested. I know I was cheerleading for him earlier on the basis of his role in Neverwhere, but I've been reminded that he can be a little broad in his performances so I'd be interested to see a recent performance to make up my mind. He's in the BBC's new remake of Survivors, along with the increasingly ubiquitous Freema Agyeman and Julie "Bonekickers" Graham. It looks potentially okay, potentially terrible. I may summon up the energy to find out. Or not.

On a related note I'd seen others refer to the recently released BBC Archive material relating to the genesis of Doctor Who. What I hadn't realised is that the first two documents released, and particularly the first, are essentially internal BBC briefing papers trying to work out 'what is this thing called Science Fiction?' with a view to determining whether it could be adapted for TV. They propose to use Arthur C Clarke and John Wyndham as consultants, and even met with Brian Aldiss. As such these documents represent brief but fascinating "as others see us" thoughts about written SF in the early 1960s; at once insightful, pragmatic and patronising.

The remaining documents are more about Doctor Who itself: 'concept notes for new SF drama' and 'background notes for Doctor Who' are fascinating glimpses into the origins of the TV show, with the latter representing a recognisable yet strangely different vision of the series. It goes some way to explaining just how unlikeable Hartnell's Doctor would occasionally be in the early episodes.

Noooo!

Oct. 29th, 2008 09:28 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Dalek Fandom)
Say it ain't so: "David Tennant quits as Doctor Who". More comments from him here.

Maybe Paterson Joseph is a possibility after all... no I don't believe it either, but a guy can hope.

Who?

Oct. 21st, 2008 06:55 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Dalek Fandom)
I'm sure this rumour about Paterson Joseph being cast as the new Doctor is utter bollocks, like 99.99% of all Doctor casting rumours, but I'd love it to be true. Ever since he played the flamboyantly Doctor-like Marquis de Carabas in the BBC's Neverwhere I've thought he'd be fantastic in the role. Along with Peter Capaldi he was the best thing about that series. In fact Neverwhere was explicitly Neil Gaiman's attempt to fill the old Who niche of scary genre television for adults. Ironically it was just as severely hamstrung by its production values as Classic Who ever was.

That news story also states that "many Doctor Who purists are already resisting the notion of a black actor taking on the role", which if true just pisses me off immensely. I don't hang around Who forums so I've no idea how widespread this sentiment is or if it's just confined to one troll and a few hardcore Whovians, but it's nearly impossible for me to imagine what arguments could possibly be advanced for the Doctor not changing his skin colour. This is an alien being who transforms every conceivable aspect of himself, including his hair colour, features, height, weight and, er, accent. Are we supposed to believe that melanin is one step too far?

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Dalek Fandom)
Continuing my attempts to make myself look prehistoric by wallowing in Doctor Who nostalgia from the 1970s, here's a fantastic little tin that my Mum brought over recently (in her continued attempts to rid the house of all our old tat...)



Click for bigger versions and just admire the time and care that's gone into crafting this jewel in the crown of merchandising. I'm thinking the illustration alone must have demanded at least half an hour and a tube of Pritt Stick.

Here's the bit they would look at on Antiques Roadshow to confirm its provenance:


Apparently BBC Enterprises took the bold decision not to disown it. I do have a nostalgic fondness for the old girl, though.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Tomb)
There's a decent little interview with Steven Moffat here about the fifth season of Doctor Who and how his writing style will change.

Meanwhile I recently came across something from my childhood that I just had to share.

You see, when I was young in the 1970s everyone liked Doctor Who and Davros was a scary villain. I know, obviously that's impossible to imagine today.

This is one of the Doctor Who game cards you used to get in packets of Weetabix. The back of each cereal box had a game board, and when you had all four game boards you could also add them together to make one really huge game board with the Tardis console in the middle. The cards were slotted in around the board, and then it was just a case of rolling dice and moving around the board, randomly landing on hazards. Sadly I no longer have the boards, but there are pictures here: 1, 2, 3, 4. Total nostalgia rush.

I have loads more of the things. As I recall they were traded in the playground at School and rare ones had the approximate market value of gold bullion. Ah, them were the days.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Dalek Fandom)
So it's time for the inevitable Doctor Who Season Report Card. Previous, equally arguable, season reviews are here for S2 and here for S3 and S1.

Best to Worst... )

Coolness

Jun. 22nd, 2008 10:09 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Tomb)
The second trailer (UK only) for next Saturday's Doctor Who is rather cool.

It's slightly spoilery, particularly if you've no idea who the main villain is (assuming you can read this from your isolation tank).

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
I'm back from holiday, so what's the first thing I'm going to post about? Doctor Who. Damn straight.

Spoilers for Doctor Who - Episode 10: Midnight )

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
Just saw this slightly later than planned and don't really have time to post in detail but...

Spoilers for Doctor Who - Episode 8: Silence In The Library )

EDIT )

Doctor Who

May. 24th, 2008 07:21 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Tomb)
No Doctor Who tonight, of course, because we need to be reminded that, right across Europe, there are people with no ability to sing. However there's a mid series trailer now online (UK only) for the remainder of the year's episodes. I can't say it blows me away or looks as excitingly incomprehensible as last year's equivalent trail, and a large part of that is simply that the images in it - old enemies, old companions - are so familiar.

In related yet random musings, is it me or is the new showrunner Steven Moffat the only person in the world who actually sports Norman Osborn's hairdo from the Spider-man comics?

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
Yesterday we had a very nice barbeque with good food, good company and even some reasonably warm and sunny weather. As a result, no posting from me. Belatedly therefore, here comes the rambling...

Spoilers for Doctor Who - Episode 5: The Poison Sky )

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
I was far too busy last week to write anything about Doctor Who but I'm nothing if not a completist so here, out of sequence and entirely too late to be of any interest, are some brief thoughts. Assuming I can actually remember anything about the episode...

Spoilers for Doctor Who - Episode 3: Planet of the Ood )

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