Revisiting The DWC’s Year One: Part Two

As we approach the DWC’s first birthday, we’re taking a look back at a small sample of the work our contributors have put in over the previous 12 months.

Dig in!

New Beginnings: Messing Up Regenerations

With a regeneration on the horizon, and the end of the Twelfth Doctor’s life (an incarnation with an unusual change of face – in that it’s one he’d previously seen), it feels the right time to revisit Alasdair Shaw’s ponderings on why the Doctor seems to suffer from post-regenerative madness more than any other Time Lord:

“[It’s] when the Third Doctor reaches the end of his life that we get the first clear sign that maybe, just maybe, he isn’t all that capable of regenerating properly by himself. Certainly the enigmatic mutterings of K’anpo Rimpoche throughout Planet of the Spiders suggests that there’s a degree of mental, perhaps even spiritual, preparation required to allow the regeneration to occur. Certainly it’s heavily implied that the Doctor’s life would have ended here if his old mentor had not been on hand to give the process a little push.

“It’s also worth noting that K’anpo Rimpoche regenerated with the help of a self-projected future version of himself, but we’ll come back to that in a few paragraphs.”

My First Doctor Who Convention: Longleat 1983

Photo by Jonathan Appleton
Photo by Jonathan Appleton

For millions, Longleat is synonymous with wildlife preservation, but for Doctor Who fans from the 1980s, it holds further significance for holding a notable convention. Tony Jones remembers what was his first proper Who event:

“We had no idea, nobody did, as to how busy the day was to get. I got in fine and made a massive schoolboy error. I decided to queue for some autographs (Davison and Leeson, amongst others). The error was not realising how many hours I would queue. I came away with my signed postcards and these have long since vanished. What I didn’t do was take the chance to watch the then newly return Dalek Invasion of Earth, or to wander, photograph and take advantage of what still remains a unique and fascinating melange of fans, casual viewers, actors, crew and sundry others.”

Reviewed: Doctor Who Target Covers Exhibition at the Cartoon Museum

Photo by Jonathan Appleton

As a devotee to the Target range, Jonathan Appleton couldn’t stop himself from a trip to the Cartoon Museum, which housed a selection of covers from the series. In his review, he said:

“Everyone will have their favourites; being a child of the 1970s I’m probably biased but for me the Chris Achilleos covers are unbeatable. Seeing The Day of the Daleks, a favourite from childhood, up close gave me goosebumps, but I was also struck by The Cybermen, with that hang-dog Patrick Troughton and blank stare of the enemy of the title – no wonder kids bought so many of these books with that kind of enticing image on the cover.”

Exclusive Interview: Titan Comics’ Nick Abadzis (Part One) & (Part Two)

I remain very pleased with this extensive interview with writer, Nick Abadzis, who has become a good friend of the DWC’s. Of the influence of music on his stories, he said:

“Music is very important to me – always has been. Many of my close friends are musicians, although I don’t know what bearing that has on me and the way I create stories… but I do have a vast library of music, the vinyl and CD parts of which are spread over two continents now (some of it remains in storage in my mother’s garage in the UK). Digital music is much easier to transport! I love the artifacts though – records and album sleeve art.

“I can’t listen to any music with human voices in it while I write though, as then I tend to get sidetracked and listen to lyrics, so I write only to instrumental music: mostly soundtracks, but some classical, jazz and ambient too. I was talking to [Dalek scribe] Rob Shearman about this – he does the same thing! Our writing process has some similarities.”

The Novel Adventures of Harry Sullivan

It’s sad to say Harry Sullivan’s (Ian Marter) travels with the Doctor are pretty short, especially compared to the likes of Sarah Jane Smith, Tegan Jovanka, and Amy Pond. And yet he’s a much-loved companion. So Andy Reynolds guides us through the character’s adventures in another medium. Of Millennium Shock, he writes:

“Oh look me up in the year 2000, won’t it be strange when all the computers have blown…Y2K fear is rife and one mysterious company, Silver Bullet Systems, has the answer…even if it is primed to fail. An alien race known as the Voracian are purposely installing the fail-safe chips in every computer; regardless of whether or not they need them.

“A pre-millennial thriller featuring the Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Harry – still employed in his role at MI5 – the book suffers from the law of diminishing returns, not to dwell on the fact that it has horribly dated as well. However, it’s interesting to note that, years before Aliens of London, the novel features creatures posing as humans inside Downing Street.”

A Brief Introduction to Ben Jackson and Polly Wright

As victims of the BBC’s policy of wiping tapes to make room for new recordings, some newer viewers might be unfamiliar with Polly Wright (Anneke Wills) and Ben Jackson (Michael Craze). Allow Simon Mills to guide you through their collected journeys:

“So, across their adventures we get to learn that Polly is confident, resourceful and caring and is most definitely not a dumb blonde, but will use her feminine wiles to manipulate people. On the downside, though, she does have a habit of trusting too easily which gets her into trouble. Ben, on the other hand, is a grumpy sod to start with but lightens up through his time travelling with the Doctor, Polly and later on, also Jamie. We see at times that Ben is quite clever and knowledgeable, knowing that nail varnish remover contains acetone and that the Earth and Mars are on average around 200 million miles apart. Not really nuggets of info you’d expect from a sailor, that’s for sure.”

Exclusive Interview: Titan Comics’ Rob Williams and Al Ewing

Christian Cawley interviewed the writing team for Year One of Titan Comics’ Eleventh Doctor title, talking about creative freedom, attitude to Matt Smith’s Time Lord, and companion, Alice Obiefune. Rob Williams said:

“[Within] the framework of writing a Doctor Who story, we’ve had pretty much total freedom. I’ve been absolutely astonished at some of the things the BBC have allowed us to get away with in this comic, and I’m very grateful for their light touch.”

Reviewed: Doctor Who – The War Doctor 3: Agents of Chaos

How precious Big Finish’s War Doctor stories have proved to be, giving further glimpses into the Time War and that incarnation of the Time Lord with an all-star cast led by John Hurt, Jacqueline Pearce, and Nick Briggs. Here, Reviews editor, Mez Burdett focused on the third boxset:

“Over the course of three hours we follow the Doctor and his fellow Time warriors on a journey against the Dalek time strategist, a creature of pure malevolence and disregard. This may well be one of Nicholas Briggs’ finest Skaro creations yet, the strategist is a self-assured egotist with a voice that purrs as well as mocks all that do not believe his chronicling of events are set in stone. The hubris pouring out of this particular Dalek is one of the most interesting aspects of the entire saga and certainly gives its recent television counterparts a strong run for their money.”

Kit Off! – Why Karen Gillan’s Jumanji Outfit Really Isn’t A Big Deal

This was always bound to cause a stir: Karen Gillan was revealed as starring in the sequel to Jumanji (the original film being one of her favourites), but the internet was shocked to see what she’d be wearing in the jungle. Naturally, the internet doesn’t stop to consider the reasons why she’s wearing what she is. James Baldock gave us a considered and thoughtful argument why everyone should just calm down a bit:

“Oddly enough the presentation and perception of women in Nu Who seems almost to have backslid in recent years. I’m reassured by various people that ‘the show is growing up’, but I’m yet to see any compelling evidence that this is the case: Amy’s seduction of the Doctor at the end of Flesh and Stone is borderline inappropriate for a family show, Clara’s soaking at the beginning of Cold War is there purely to indulge the fantasies of a million teenage boys (and their slightly older peer groups), and River’s apparent nymphomania would make even Michael Douglas blush. More seriously, we’re still in a place where the comparative worth of a female character is judged, all too often, on the relationships they have with men: Blink is the most obvious example, but there are others, and while the situation is gradually being addressed the uncomfortable truth is that 21st Century Who is far less ‘enlightened’ than it would like to think it is.”

(Robert) Holmes Under the Hammer

The era heralded by Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes is generally applauded for its dark nature – but Peter Shaw manages to find the humour hidden in the murky depths. In true Homes under the Hammer style, you should read it to the tunes of The Green Green Grass of Home, Long Dark Road, and The Kinks’ Plastic Man:

“While he (and the entire Who production team) were forced to reign in the butchery as the result of a House of Lords debate on TV violence prompted by [Terror of the Autons], Holmes never lost his love of the Grand Guignol (with a guffaw)…

“Probably the best example is the fate of poor Joseph Buller, his drowned corpse unceremoniously fished from the Thames with a boat hook (in Talons too). It could have been a poignant scene, but naughty Ol’ Bob couldn’t resist the action being accompanied by the commentary of a toothless hag, spouting cod Victoriana. ‘On my oath,’ she says. ‘You wouldn’t want that served with onions. Never seen anything like it in all my puff. Oh, make an ‘orse sick, that would…’ Genius, Bob. Bad, bad genius.”

Fiction: The Empty Orphanage

As a long-time advocate of the DWC publishing fan fiction, James Lomond was appointed editor of the festive project, and further got time to write two pieces of fiction himself, including this fun, surprising tale featuring Romana and the Fourth Doctor – twice:

“Romana looked down the barrel of the compact blaster at the overweight man in her sights. He wore a red velvet suit and tumbling white beard. The man in red glanced at her gun, levelled at his head, then back to the curly haired lunatic in the long scarf whom he was also holding at gunpoint. Romana’s voice was clipped and impatient. ‘I won’t tell you again, old man. Drop the gun’.”

Agatha Christie and the Robots of Death

In assessing Chris Boucher’s Robots of Death, obvious comparisons to the work of Agatha Christie are frequently made. But are they fair? Matt Badham investigated…

“The specific Agatha Christie novel that is often referenced in terms of The Robots of Death is And Then There Were None (which is only one of various titles that have been used throughout its publication history; some of which have the potential to offend, which is why I’m not going to include them here). Its conceit is that a group of people are lured to an isolated island and picked off one by one by an unknown murderer, whose identity is only revealed in a postscript. The Robots of Death borrows that novel’s isolated setting and core premise. Instead of an island, we are, of course, on a sandminer, Storm Mine 4, where a crew of humans, ably assisted by their robot servants, are scouring a desert planet for minerals.”

Reviewed: Big Finish’s The Peterloo Massacre

Katie Gribble’s a history buff – I mean, her level of knowledge is astounding – and she brought this depth of understanding to the review of Paul Magrs’ Big Finish tale, starring Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, and Janet Fielding:

“The purely historical nature of the story allows the listener to observe the very separate lives of both presented social classes, whilst also demonstrating how closely their lives are intertwined by forces such as duty, friendship, and family. Magrs doesn’t try to complicate the story by throwing in an alien menace because the ideas behind the historical events are complex enough. In this way, there are comparisons to be made with another Peter Davison story, Black Orchid, in that as well as taking place in the grand setting, there are no actual aliens present or any nefarious unearthly influences trying to alter what took place.”

Missing Episodes: Villiers House and the Hero Who Visited Ealing

It’s pretty cool knowing that Andrew Hsieh, a relatively new contributor to the DWC, actually lives near Bannerman Road, the location of Sarah Jane’s house. Here, Andrew marvels at Ian Levine’s visit to his hometown of Ealing, and how he saved numerous serials from being wiped:

“Ian paid a visit to the former BBC Enterprises building at Villiers House (directly above Ealing Broadway station, Mainline and Tube, serving the Central and District lines) to find that an amazingly large haul of William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton era film prints were on the brink of “total destruction” on precisely the same day. These film prints are all completed serials that were specially prepared for overseas broadcasting, and more importantly, the first three serials – An Unearthly ChildThe Daleks, and The Edge of Destruction, or 100,000BC, The Mutants, and Inside the Spaceshipdepending on your preferences! – were all among the cache.”

A Hat Like That: How The Second Doctor Informed the Eleventh

In our celebration of the Second Doctor, it seemed only right to see how that incarnation of the Time Lord influenced another – specifically, Matt Smith’s Doctor:

“In many respects – particularly when compared to their immediate predecessors – both Second and Eleventh Doctors carry the air of an extraterrestrial Nero, fiddling while Rome burns (and the First Doctor watches the whole thing from a nearby hill). It’s a factor even in those very first stories – while a frustrated Ben and Polly discuss their captivity, Troughton plays with his recorder; back on Earth, Amy and Rory regard the incoming Atraxi with increasing concern while the Doctor is picking out his wardrobe. Both distractions have their purpose (the Second Doctor’s “Concentrate on one thing…” works on a number of levels), although it is not always obvious to the companions (or to the audience), and in a way it’s a shame that rather more is made of these than is perhaps necessary: in other words, it’s more fun to have a Doctor who is simply aloof, rather than a Doctor who is pretending to be aloof, but is secretly plotting.”

Our Favourite Merchandise: TV Action Comic

Simon Danes donned his rose-tinted glasses (they’re lovely, except someone’s scratched ‘Bad Wolf’ into the rim) to recall the heady days of the Third Doctor’s adventures in the TV Action comic, the successor of Countdown:

“Unlike the risible TV Comic strips with Hartnell and Troughton’s Doctor, the TV Action storylines stuck fairly closely to the TV series’ tone and continuity, though with some tweaks. No UNIT, no Jo, no Bessie. Instead, Dr Who (as they usually called him) drove a car of remarkably similar design and colour, called Betsie. No doubt the changes were introduced to keep the rights fees down; only Jon Pertwee would receive a payment for his likeness being used (and brilliantly captured by Haylock), and renaming the car also gets you round copyright, too. The TARDIS was parked in the elegant cottage, so villainously struck by space lightning in The Zeron Invasion. Dr Who hosted gatherings for his ‘fellow scientists’, who politely thanked him for sharing all his scientific secrets with them (‘Not quite all,’ smiled Dr Who).”

Exclusive Interview: Victor Pemberton, Inventor of the Sonic Screwdriver!

Victor Pemberton was the Script Editor for Tomb of the Cybermen, wrote Fury from the Deep, and appeared in The Moonbase, but he’ll likely be best known for creating the sonic screwdriver; Josh Maxton caught up with Pemberton to talk about his time on the show. Talking of Modern Who, Victor said:

“I didn’t think Matt Smith was a bad Doctor at all. What I liked about him is he said he based his performance on Patrick Troughton. Of course, I’m biased, but if I had to choose any of the recent Doctors I’d definitely choose Matt Smith… There are definitely similarities between him and Patrick. What I liked about Patrick Troughton is that there was always the possibility of evil there. You never really knew everything about him. There was always a Jekyll and Hyde thing. I think Matt got that too to a certain degree. So I admire Matt Smith very much. Indeed.”

Reviewed: Vintage Beeb’s Genesis of the Daleks CD

On Record Store Day last year, the BBC rereleased Genesis of the Daleks, a version of Terry Nation’s iconic tale. This proved the perfect time for James Whittington to revisit its CD format, reissued in 2011:

“With narration from Tom Baker, here in a suitably solemn mood, this is still one of the finest Doctor Who adventures of his reign. None of the impact is lost on audio: the Doctor is serious and dramatic, Davros remains a dark and sinister creation, and the Daleks themselves sound even more chilling in audio-only mode. Nyder, played perfectly by Peter Miles, scoops the prize for most thrilling vocal. Nyder was almost as evil as Davros and is probably Terry Nation’s most perfect humanoid creation.”

Sonic Feedback: Here’s What You Thought of The Return of Doctor Mysterio

With Doctor Who off air for the vast majority of 2016, pity the poor DWC, when we had so little new content to mull over! Fortunately, when The Return of Doctor Mysterio aired on Christmas Day, David Power was there with the first Sonic Feedback, a series looking at the reaction to episodes of DWC readers:

“This episode is Steven Moffat’s seventh consecutive Christmas special, and his third one for the Twelfth Doctor. The special was directed by Ed Bazalgette, returning to Who after a brief stint directing the first three episodes of Class. If you’ve read my Class recaps, you know I sang his praises for his work over there… You’ve got to appreciate how different each Christmas special with Capaldi is: the horror focus of Last Christmas, the character-based poignancy of The Husbands of River Song, and the pure adventure of The Return of Doctor Mysterio.”

If Doctor Who Had a Naughty Little Sister…

One week, the DWC decided to throw off the chains forged for that farmer from The Family of Blood and recommend other TV series we thought fans would enjoy. This encouraged Peter Shaw to look at children’s telefantasy shows, including The Owl Service, Children of the Stones, and The Changes:

“The Moon Stallion is children’s adventure that plays to the BBC’s strengths as a period-piece costume drama with a solid script (from Ice Warrior-creator Brian Hayles) and a top-notch cast. The obvious draw to Who fans is a terrific lead performance from future companion, Sarah Sutton as the haunted Diana Purwell…

“Sarah Sutton is a charismatic lead as the blind Diana, who is haunted by a supernatural steed, the titular Moon Stallion. The denouement (which I won’t spoil) is somewhat of a disappointment but strong performances, particularly David Haig (The Leisure Hive) as the villainous Todman, keep this very watchable. As does the beautiful music from Howard Blake, who a few years later would find fame for his score for The Snowman.”

Reviewed: Class – Nightvisiting

It’s fair to say Class divided fandom, but surely no one can argue that Nightvisiting wasn’t one of its strongest episodes. In his review of the episode, James Baldock said:

“Just as the action is confined, so too the episode adheres to a unity of time that borders on the Aristotelian, framing its narrative within a single evening and allowing events to unfold almost in real time. The result is a slow-paced, dialogue-heavy tale: this is a character piece, allowing for illumination into the lives of two of its leads through the people who claim to know them best. Hence we learn that Tanya’s childhood nickname is ‘Puddle’, after an unsavoury incident involving a urinating horse. Jasper is barraged with challenge after challenge and aces every test, prompting us to ask exactly what’s going on: is this an uncanny simulacra? A memory made flesh? Or is it truly a dead man returned to life? That he’s being manipulated as part of a gestalt is not up for debate – just the question of whether he’s real.”

DWM and the Reluctant Producer

It’s no great secret that not everything behind-the-scenes of Doctor Who has run smoothly, and Jonathan Appleton went to discover how Doctor Who Magazine approached the divisive John Wiles:

“There are snippets of detail that give an indication of the direction Wiles would have taken Doctor Who if he had had the chance – increasingly adult-oriented, a more serious tone with stories that veered towards the kind of science-fiction Star Trek pursued. He had little time for the ‘fantasy romp’ of the mammoth Dalek serial he was left with by the previous production team, poetically describing it as ‘an enormous rock in the middle of a sea, and one on which any boat we were going to run would be submerged’.”

Introducing: Doctor Who and the Silurians

What makes Doctor Who and the Silurians work so well? It’s difficult to narrow it down exactly, but Andy Reynolds nails it, speaking about Malcolm Hulke’s wonderful script, the production team’s strengths, and the serial’s influences:

“The beauty of the script is that it’s broad enough to serve as an allegory for any political or humanitarian conflict – the cold war, any situation where the indigenous people are threatened by colonists – with the caveat that, thanks to Silurians being here first, one allegory where both sides are simultaneously the conquering force and the oppressed natives.”

What Might’ve Been: The Lost Eighth Doctor TV Series

Drew Boynton took us back to the mid-1990s, and explored what could’ve been for our madcap little show if The TV Movie starring Paul McGann had been a hit and a further series were commissioned:

“If the McGann film had been a success in the US in 1996, and had been picked up as a FOX series and run for the usual 5-ish year lifespan of US shows, would Russell T. Davies still have had the chance to bring back the original British show in 2005? If so, it’s possible that this “American reboot/re-do” Doctor Who series – even with its appearance by Sylvester McCoy in the pilot – might today be ignored as non-UK-canon, and Paul McGann relegated to Peter Cushing status. On the other hand, it’s also possible that the US show’s storylines and events could have been adapted and retooled by Russell Davies and folded into the 2005 show. (And McGann regenerating into Eccleston?)”

Reviewed: Big Finish’s Theatre of War

You’ll recognise James McLean from the PodKast With A K, and in his first DWC piece, he reviewed Big Finish’s adaptation of the novel, Theatre of War, starring Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred as the Seventh Doctor and Ace respectively:

“It’s a funny thing listening to the Big Finish New Adventure adaptations. I remember when I read those book in the barren land of Doctor Who hiatus, I would imagine where the television intro and outro themes could be inserted. I’m sure I’m not the only one who did/does that. Not always easy to portion a book (bar Robert’s The English Way of Death where he deliberated adopted a four-act structure), so it’s very weird (and wonderful) to listen to Theatre of War framed in Big Finish’s four part format.”

And don’t worry, James will be back reviewing for the DWC very soon, so keep ’em peeled!

Our Favourite Merchandise: 1980’s Fourth Doctor TARDIS Money Bank

Photo by Thomas Spychalski.

Recalling some of our favourite memorabilia from times gone by, Thomas Spychalski fondly looked back at the Fourth Doctor money bank, which he’s owned for over 30 years. This struck a chord with DWC readers, deservedly becoming one of our most read articles:

“It is said that the memories we hold most dear and the objects we associate with them are built around the emotional attachments we feel towards those items and times in our lives. The small metal Police Box would forever be attached to a time when life was simpler and the worries of the real world seemed far off and distant in the future, like the feeling you get when you awaken from a very surreal dream that won’t quite leave your mind.”

Death, Life, and The Time of the Doctor

Writing can be a particularly revealing thing, and so I find it difficult to write about Matt Smith’s swansong as the Eleventh Doctor – honestly, I find it communicate how important that incarnation of the Time Lord is to me. But I tried:

“I don’t think it’s right to have a favourite Doctor; for one, it’s impossible to choose. But I do think it’s okay to have one you call “My Doctor” – that is, an incarnation that you particularly relate to, whose stories just connected with you, and who might’ve inspired you in tough times. The Eleventh Doctor is that to me. It’s only natural that, personally speaking, The Time of the Doctor be the most upsetting episode of Doctor Who ever. However, it’s also a masterclass in grief, while encompassing Doctor Who‘s continued optimism.”

And so concludes Part Two (and you can find Part One here) – but come back tomorrow for the final piece revisiting the first year of the DWC!