The BBC and EscapeHunt.com have teamed up to offer a Who-themed Escape Room starting later this year and get into all the Who details from last weekend’s San Diego Comic Con.
DWM subscribers are going to get text-less covers from now on, the first 13th Doctor book to accompany the new series is out in Sep, the War Master is back at Big Finish and there’s a new Sonic Screwdriver in town.
“Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?” Review
A little bit of back story for our super-detective Sarah Jane this week accompanied by a very shady alien. Does our journey through the SJA happily continue or are we tricked into a dud?
Thank you for joining us for 196. Next week it’s classic Who and the Fifth Doctor is back for Snakedance. Have a super week and until next time – Allons-y!
There was a lot to take away from the World Cup trailer; dippy egg for Ryan, pizza for Yaz and a chippy tea for Graham. We saw little of Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, appearing right at the end having flitted through the lives of her friends, stealing chips, replacing pizzas and swapping the Sheffield Advertiser for the Beano. The Doctor’s sense of fun and mischief is clearly present in the action whilst the sense of wonder is there to see in Whittaker’s face as the trailer closes. This is not, however, an article which pores over fifty seconds of a specially-shot teaser in forensic detail. Not for us the “perhaps it’s a reactionary tabloid?” approach.
The timing of the trailer was quite interesting, however, introducing the Doctor’s new friends almost exactly twelve months since Whittaker’s casting was announced. With filming almost completed on the series and a year’s gap between the introduction of the Doctor and that of her new pals it’s tempting to feel as hungry for new information as poor Yaz was when her mates ate all the pizza. Personally, it’s refreshing to know so little going into a new series of Doctor Who, all we’ve been promised so far is “…a new Doctor, all-new characters, all-new monsters, all-new stories”, which is all rather tantalising. The Comic-Con panel emphasised this with both Chris Chibnall confirming there would be no Daleks this year and a trailer that emphasised the new friendships, times and worlds to be visited. The new sonic screwdriver and some gloriously colourful promotional images added to the excitement around the upcoming series whilst still playing its cards very close to its chest.
If all of that isn’t enough for you, and let’s face it you’re a Doctor Who fan, of course, it isn’t, then you could do a lot worse than watch the 2016 film Adult Life Skills which is a handy primer for how Jodie Whittaker may play the Doctor.
Whittaker plays Anna, a woman approaching 30 who is stuck in arrested development. She makes endearingly silly videos in her mother’s shed, a hobby she has shared with her brother since childhood. The reappearance of an old school friend and a bond with a troubled neighbour opens Anna’s insular world and offers her a way out of her self-imposed exile. This is a coming-of-age tale for the 20-30 something demographic, stuck in low-income jobs and still living at home with their parents.
The film is written and directed by Rachel Deering, who won the Nora Ephron Prize at the Tribeca film festival in 2016. The award is designed to give exposure to female writer/directors, something for which Whittaker, also an executive producer on the film, is an emphatic supporter. “It’s celebrating voices being heard and [Ephron’s] voice was heard so many years ago. But then that’s so f***ing depressing, why is it still so minimal?” Deering also plays Anna’s friend Fiona and has been friends with Whittaker since they were 3 years old, which lends a real authenticity and chemistry to their scenes together and is a strong part of the film’s charm.
Alongside Doctor Who’s own step forward for gender equality, there are a couple of key factors to the film and the central performance that are pertinent to the role of the Doctor.
Peter Capaldi recently said that Doctor Who is a show about death “…it has a very, very powerful death motif in it which is that the central character dies. I think that is one of its most potent mysteries because somewhere in that people see that that’s what happens in life. You have loved ones and then they go, but you must carry on.” Without giving too much away, Adult Life Skills is also about death, a film that has what Stylist magazine called “a unique premise: a comedy about grief”. Jodie Whittaker absolutely nails this fine line between quirk, comedy and pathos which presents us with the fully rounded character of Anna and which will surely guarantee us a brilliant 13th Doctor. Indeed, Anna’s shed is like a TARDIS, offering her the ability to escape the drudgery of her day job and constant arguments with her mother through these transportive videos which see her two thumbs bickering their way through space.
Another important factor is the actor’s ability to charm a generation of children. You could see it in the way that William Hartnell visited village fetes and hospitals, the way Tom Baker was adored, or how Peter Capaldi surprised a group of kids visiting the Doctor Who Experience.
The tender, tentative friendship between Anna and cowboy obsessed Clint (played brilliantly by Ozzy Myers) is the film’s true emotional heart and calls to mind some of the strongest moments of Matt Smith’s era, where the Eleventh Doctor would provide solace or encouragement to troubled or endangered children.
Adult Life Skills is an offbeat, incredibly likeable film which ably balances moments of great sadness with great humour, a British story about loss and renewal. Which isn’t that bad a description of Doctor Who either. October will be here in no time and this show we have loved for so long is about to renew itself once more in some very safe hands indeed.
This month sees the finale in a loose trilogy of Sixth Doctor adventures. Companion-less, the Sixth Doctor has been through a lot, there was the betrayal of a friend in The Lure of the Nomad, fought off a dimensional war in Iron Bright and Hour of the Cybermen sees him come up against a lot worse than just those titular metal-meanies.
The Doctor arrives in London to find it deserted, rivers and streams have run dry and the whole country is in a strange drought. Answering a call from UNIT for aid, the Doctor soon discovers a signal coming from space and he finds a crew of desiccated corpses. But this is only the beginning, an old enemy of the Time Lord’s is waiting in the wings, the Cybermen have waited for this day for years, at last they will conquer Earth. Now and forever…
Following on from The Helliax Rift, there had been a shake-up in the UNIT family. Gone were the cosy little unit of the Brig, Yates, Benton, Bell & Osgood, among others and in had stepped a more fearsome crew, something akin to the gang around Bambara in Battlefield. This time it was Colonel Lewis Price, Medical Officer Daniel Hopkins and incoming Captain Weaver. They were more ruthless in getting things done, with the Doctor gone, they had to combat many alien threats without him. The Helliax Rift ended with the Fifth Doctor aghast at what UNIT had become. His substitute companion for that story was Hopkins, played by Blake Harrison. But a lot has happened to Hopkins between that story and this.
I won’t mention what has happened to Hopkins but it does influence his actions and beliefs in this story. It also ties into the Cybermen’s plans for humanity. UNIT faced the Cybermen once in the Classic Series on television in The Invasion but those were very different Cybermen.
The Eighties saw a big change in the Doctor Who universe, The Daleks were only seen three times, the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors were completely different to any of the incarnations that came before them and the universe got very dangerous with the deaths of companions, Adric and Peri.
Of course, the Cybermen made their Earthshattering return in Earthshock which saw Adric die trying to stop a ship crashing into Earth. The Cybermen had undergone quite a radical change too, their costumes were changed, their faces had see-through chins, allowing the audience to see what was left of the human underneath and they took their orders from the Cyber-Leader and Lieutenant, played by David Banks and Mark Hardy.
It is these Eighties Cybermen who feature as the villains of Hour of the Cybermen, this time not voiced by Nicholas Briggs but their original actors. And it is really wonderful. They don’t sound exactly like they did, the new ring-modifier probably saw to that, but they are unmistakable as the same characters. The funny thing about this pair was always whether the Leader was as unemotional as his minions as he took perverse pleasure in making Tegan watch as the freighter hurtled towards prehistoric Earth to destroy it.
That question comes into play once more as David Banks returns, this time with a slightly more sadistic Leader, especially in a scene between him and Russ Bain as Price. Their plans are equally as sadistic which sees them removing the water from the human body as a way of forcing humanity into submitting to their conversion. These are definitely the gloriously violent Cybermen from Earthshock, Attack of the Cybermen and Silver Nemesis.
Blake Harrison puts in a tremendous performance as Daniel Hopkins once more and it goes to show what a terrific actor he is. Never having seen The Inbetweeners, I had no idea who he was before The Helliax Rift but he was so great in that, that I couldn’t wait for his return in a few months time. It will be interesting to see where the continuation of his character goes too when he hopefully returns in November’s – Warlock’s Cross.
Colin Baker has been companion-less for the last three audio adventures and it has really allowed people to see how great his Doctor really is. Big Finish has worked its magic so well with the Sixth Doctor allowing the BBC and the audience to see the full potential of the Sixth Incarnation. Colin Baker is superb, as always and it is wonderful to hear him come up against the proper Eighties Cybermen again.
The guest cast is on fine form too, particularly Frog Stone as Riva and Wayne Forrester who plays the dual role of Atriss and Captain Weaver. Both actors are tremendous, Weaver feeling a little more like the Brigadier of old which was quite nice to hear. Riva would have made an excellent companion for the Sixth Doctor, hopefully, this isn’t her only performance.
The script from Andrew Smith is excellent too. He seems to really shine when he brings back old adversaries like the Sontarans, Marshmen, Voord, Voc Robots, Movellans & Daleks. Now he gets a turn at the Cybermen and they are equally, if not better, as good as they were on television. Hour of theCybermen is perhaps the metal-giants at their most sadistic and cruel and Smith realises that beautifully as well as continuing the UNIT story, especially that surrounding Daniel. This is another triumph for Smith. Hopefully, there is more from him in the near future.
Everything about Hour of the Cybermen allows the story to stand tall and proud, I would definitely rank it as one of the best Cybermen stories told by Big Finish. It is delightful to hear David Banks and Mark Hardy return and this had better not be the last we hear from them either. Jamie Anderson’s direction is top-notch, he has quickly become one of Big Finish’s best directors and he gets the best he possibly can out of his actors and script, long may he continue too.
Hour of the Cybermen wraps up a successful trilogy for the Sixth Doctor and it will be nice to hear more solo Six later on down the line. I’ve never been a fan of solo Doctor adventures but this trilogy may have just changed my mind, so well done Big Finish! And I love the new covers with the brand new logo on! Just look at the Big Finish page for some of the upcoming releases, they are stunning.
Well done to everyone involved. In fact, one might say, EXCELLENT – (in booming Cyber-Leader voice)!
Answering a call from UNIT, the Doctor arrives in London to find the streets deserted, apart from looters in possession of a valuable commodity – water.
Britain is suffering an extreme and bizarre drought. The cause is suspected to be extra-terrestrial.
The discovery of a signal being transmitted into space, and of a spacecraft whose crew are desiccated corpses, provides a possible answer. But the true enemy is an old foe of the Doctor’s.
The Cybermen have been patient, setting their plans in place over a number of years. As the final stage is implemented, in the darkest hour, the Doctor must identify who among his allies he can trust.
Written By: Andrew Smith Directed By: Jamie Anderson
Colin Baker (The Doctor), David Banks (Cyber Leader), Mark Hardy (Cyber Lieutenant), Frog Stone (Riva), Blake Harrison (Daniel Hopkins), Wayne Forester (Atriss / Bill Parker / Captain Weaver), Russ Bain (Lewis Price / Kel). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer: John Ainsworth Script Editor: Alan Barnes Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Welcome to Episode 195…
Plenty to cover from the last two weeks including… a confirmed Christmas Special(?), New Zealand channel nabs the broadcast rights for series 11 and we discuss the recently released teaser.
A new 50th Anniversary book for Lethbridge-Stewart, plenty of 13th Doctor figures inbound from SDCC and those re-released DVD boxsets from the US.
“The Satan Pit” Review
Possessed Ood, big caverns and Alien-esque air vents make up this story for our review conclusion to this 10th Doctor two-parter. We up for this or do we wish the black hole would swallow us up?
Thank you for joining us for 195. Next week we jump back to the SJA with What Ever Happened to Sarah Jane? Have a super week and until next time – Allons-y!
For something that was designed to restore a bit of mystery to the character of the Doctor ahead of the show’s regeneration in 2005, the Time War is at risk of losing its own mystique. As an ever-expanding range of wartime audio spin-offs is released by Big Finish, Mark Donaldson reviews the most recent, Time War 2 and ponders how much narrative scope a multi-dimensional war outside of normal space-time actually provides.
“I’m not part of the war, never was” the Doctor tells Cass as her gunship hurtles towards Karn in The Night of the Doctor. Later, as Ohila tries to convince him to regenerate and bring an end to the Time War, he admits “I help out where I can”. Two slightly contradictory statements, but as Steven Moffat has told us before, the Doctor always lies. Whatever the truth, these statements are sure to provide Big Finish with plenty of fuel for Time War boxed sets in the years to come.
In The Time War 1, the Doctor found himself attempting to rescue a group of refugees from a stricken starliner, stumbling into the battlefronts as he escorted them to safety, being conscripted into the war and assisting a loving husband and wife who harbour a universe-shattering secret. The Time War 2, available now, offers a similar structure, giving us the Doctor and companion Bliss, directly and indirectly, involved with the events of an ever-present conflict.
The following review contains some spoilers, it’s mostly things already on the artwork or mentioned on Big Finish’s Twitter account but do be warned. There’s a spoiler free summary right at the bottom of the page.
The opening story is Jonathan Morris’ Lords of Terror, which takes the Doctor and Bliss to Capital City, Derelovia. Capital City is Bliss’ hometown, but things have changed since her last visit, the populace lives in fear of the Daleks and the house she grew up in no longer exists. What begins as a fairly standard Dalek plotline soon becomes something much more interesting, a story about the oppressive power of fear, the lies that are told to both sides of a war and how they can be used for subjugation and a strategic advantage.
It’s also the only(?) Doctor Who story that bases a key plot point around how smelly a Dalek is. Meanwhile, the developing plotline about Bliss and her constantly changing personal history looks to be a key part of future boxed sets. These Time War ripples also handily explain why the Eighth Doctor forgets to mention Bliss (and Liv, and Helen) at the moment of his regeneration. As interesting as many of the themes Morris sets up in his script, the story eventually sacrifices them to do its Doctor Who thing. It ends with battles and explosions, which livens up your daily commute but provides an abrupt climax to an intelligent and compelling morality play which could have benefitted from an extra 50 minutes.
Taking a respite from the previous instalment’s events, the Doctor and Bliss are sitting by a pond when they’re approached by a kindly old woman with an intriguing mystery. This is the new incarnation of Big Finish villain The Eleven, now The Twelve, played brilliantly by Julia McKenzie and beautifully described by the Doctor as “The Dirty Dozen in stately tweed and shawl”.
The intriguing mystery at the heart of Guy Adams’ Planet of the Ogrons is one of the best pre-titles sequences in all of Doctor Who. The TARDIS materialises in the Gallifreyan Capitol and out steps an Ogron who believes he’s the Doctor. The Ogron “Doctor” is played by impressionist Jon Culshaw, tremendous at aping some of the Doctor’s most familiar lines. The relationship between Doctor Ogron and the Doctor himself is reminiscent of the badinage and bickering expected in multi-Doctor stories as well as the initial dismissiveness of The Doctor’s Daughter. The mystery takes them, Bliss and The Twelve to the Ogron homeworld, where they come up against “The Overseer”.
This Dalek geneticist is an odd creation, played by, who else? Nicholas Briggs. Whilst Briggs’ performance is idiosyncratic and individual enough to convey something the Daleks themselves mistrust, it is tempting to ponder what might have been achieved if the role had been given to a different actor. The score and the script suggest to us that it should be a shock that the Overseer is a Dalek but the sound design and, admittedly less obvious, ring modulation immediately indicate its origins to the listener.
Planet of the Ogrons could have been a hugely enjoyable “body swap” adventure which explores themes of heroism and the dark sides of genetic engineering. For the most part, the story is that, but the need to both involve the Daleks and position our heroes for the next story necessitates a rushed conclusion which short-changes the best aspect of the story, Doctor Ogron.
The Daleks continue to undermine the following story, In the Garden of Death, another Guy Adams script, set on a prison colony where the prisoners can’t remember who they are or what they’ve done. It’s an intriguing sci-fi premise which explores the connection between freedom and identity and calls to mind certain aspects of the seminal Heaven Sent. Whilst the identity of the inmates might be a mystery, the identity of their jailers is never in doubt. There’s always something unsatisfying about being ahead of the Doctor, waiting for him to catch up with you.
And yet the scenes where the Doctor, Bliss and The Twelve use what they do know to logically work out why they’re imprisoned are entertaining and there’s something refreshing about the Doctor having forgotten what a Dalek is. Aside from that, this is the weakest story in the set, and only really functions to get the Doctor, Bliss and the Twelve onboard a submarine.
Which brings us to the highlight of the set, Jonah by Timothy X Atack, a story which calls to mind Moby Dick, Watchmen, The Call of Cthulhu and Paul the Psychic Octopus from the 2010 World Cup. Deep underwater, in an ocean which makes both time travel and the use of blaster weapons impossible, the Daleks and the Timelords are in search of something hidden in the depths. The Twelve knows what it is, but following her imprisonment by the Daleks, no longer has control over her past selves’ voices in her head rendering her a danger to herself and others.
Much like the other stories in the set, Atack’s script has a strong sci-fi concept at its core. Unlike the other stories, it makes imaginative use of the Daleks. The Dalek depth charges are an eerie proposition, whilst their approach to “silent running” manages to both elicit a wry, meta-textual smirk and make complete sense. The added ten minutes to the runtime allows the story to breathe too and gives us some wonderfully Doctorish scenes such as his moving speech about a fallen crewmate. The climax of the story, where the Doctor quickly works out the meaning of an ominous message in order to save the life of the Twelve is a strong Doctor Who moment which demonstrates what these Time War audios are capable of achieving.
In moments like this, when The Time War 2 is strongest, it feels like a bold reimagining for the show which would have sat comfortably alongside Star Trek: Deep Space Nine on BBC2 in the late 1990s. Much like the Dominion War in the Star Trek universe, the Time War offers writers the possibility to extrapolate the essence of Doctor Who to the theatre of battle. How would that character act within a wartime setting? For how long would he be able to resist becoming cruel or cowardly? That’s the internal conflict that will plague the 8th Doctor until he dies alongside young Cass in a crater on Karn. It’s that struggle, and the mystery around the terrific Bliss and her constantly shifting personal history that will see us through the next two boxed sets in this series. There’s no point in arguing the point that the most exciting thing about the Time War was the images conjured in our imaginations, rather than experiencing it first hand when we have, at least, eight more stories confirmed.
Future boxed sets might want to rethink how much they involve the Daleks. Barry Letts once lamented that every story in Jon Pertwee’s second series had the Master as the main villain. At least Roger Delgado was a charismatic presence. The Daleks can often be incredibly one-note, especially in what is the seventh boxed set to take place during the Time War. As capable as Nicholas Briggs is of providing subtle shifts and interpretations of new Dalek characters they still feel quite limited as antagonists when they appear in every story.
The Time War 8th Doctor made his first Big Finish appearance in The Diary of River Song episode The Rulers of the Universe, where he stated that he was assisting on the fringes of the Time War, mopping up the mess left by the Daleks and the Timelords. Focusing on this period would really liven up future boxed sets, reinstating the freedom that the Doctor Who format allows whilst still being able to play in the Time War sandbox.
Spoiler Free Summary: Brimming with ideas, shame about the Daleks!
Written By: Jonathan Morris, Guy Adams, Timothy X Atack Directed By: Ken Bentley
Paul McGann (The Doctor), Rakhee Thakrar (Bliss), Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks), Jacqueline Pearce (Cardinal Ollistra), Julia McKenzie (The Twelve), Nikki Amuka-Bird (Tamasan), Amanda Root (Lendek), Rakie Ayola (Pollia / Lambda Epsilon), Guy Adams (Rendo), Simon Slater (Carvil / Shaler), Jon Culshaw (Doctor Ogron), Victor McGuire (Borton), Anya Chalotra (Ensign Murti), Tania Rodrigues (Chief Panath), Surinder Duhra (Executive Officer Omor). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Being a Doctor Who fan the last few months has felt a rollercoaster of anticipation. We went through a few weeks after Peter Capaldi’s last episode with what seemed a purposeful ploy to keep any production news under wraps by the new-fangled Chibbers production team at the helm in Cardiff. We had to amuse ourselves somehow. It was a veritable drought of news that had the drumming of fingers on tables and desks playing in a steady beat.
And then with their announcements Twitch and the BBC deluged us with choice and content. They couldn’t wait to share their goodies of classic and new Who! All the unexpected twists and turns of the last few weeks have given us gains but we have also lost…
I don’t know whether you are a World Cup football fan who was on tenterhooks watching the Columbia versus England game. I certainly was and 23. 6 million tuned in with me for the penalty shootout no doubt watching between their fingers. The event brought a countrywide collective of people together experiencing the same event at the same time. An amazing moment, a national drawing of breath. There have been moments with Twitch showing Doctor Who which have felt smaller but captured a moment. When I first heard about Twitch devoting seven weeks to streaming Doctor Who stories from the original 1963-1989 run of the show I did wonder what kind of crazy idea was this? Who tunes into a video platform for gamers to watch an old black and white television show?
The result has been such a pleasant surprise. Seeing catchphrases such as “London, 1965!”, referring to the 1st Doctor clips repeated between episodes during the first few days exploding on social media felt fresh and exciting because it meant a whole new ( young) audience was enjoying themselves discovering some of the Who gems of the 1960’s. The statistics show a maximum of 22,462 people tuning in at any one time for Doctor Who over the last 90 days and what I love is that there is something very connecting about the process. I found myself watching Twitch against my own expectations and becoming addicted to reading some of the very funny real-time comments. The audience comments feel quite young, raw, uncensored and their interest is heartening. There’s a lot of love and its brilliant!
Missing Episodes with private collectors
I was very intrigued recently when Doctor Who archivist Paul Vanezis revealed that he was aware of the existence of two missing Doctor Who episodes held by private film collectors. Over the years I have read the rumours of private film collectors holding missing episodes but to have confirmation that there is ‘absolutely no question’ they do is amazing welcome news. It seems though that we will have to wait to view anything as these aren’t ‘the kind of people that you should be pressured to hand things over.” according to Mr Vanezis. Who are these people I wonder? Are they Mafiosi. Set up a meeting and you get assassinated. Surely anonymity can be a given if they don’t wish to reveal their identity.
Paul Vanezis sees it as they offer a service “There’s been a lot of criticism of film collectors by people who should really know better. Without them, these things would have been lost or destroyed years and years ago and the fact that they have survived and survived in good condition is because people have cared for them. We might not like it because we can’t see them but it’s not really for us to criticise them for preserving this material. One day we will get to see them.”
I don’t really understand it if I’m honest why they wouldn’t want to share the find. If they brought the original film then it still belongs to them I assume. It’s a bit like the art collectors who spend millions of pounds on an original painting only to hide it away in a private collection. My point is it could be years before we see anything. Perhaps there’s something Gollum like in the pleasure of holding something “precious” and knowing you are the only person to be able to see it. What a shame to deny others the opportunity to view it. It’s a televisual piece of history deserving of being in the public domain.
I was sad to hear of two recent deaths ….
Helen Griffin 1958- 2018
Helen Griffin the actress and playwright died at the age of 59 which is no age now. She played Angela Price, known as Mrs Moore, in the 2006 stories ‘Rise of the Cybermen’ and ‘The Age of Steel’.
There was something so distinctive and loveable about that little group of rebels, Mickey, Ricky, Jake and Mrs Moore all fighting Cybus industries and I love that Mrs Moore kept her ordinariness and her accent. Her character’s death was so sudden and sad. You really felt the Doctor’s sadness at her loss.
Helen is probably best known for playing the masseuse Lynette in the Welsh cult classic Twin Town, a 1997 British dark crime comedy-drama film filmed and set in Swansea. She also adapted her own play Flesh and Blood into a screenplay film Little White Lies winning a Welsh BAFTA for her performance.
Leslie Grantham 1947- 2018
He was most well-known for his role as ‘Dirty’ Den Watts in EastEnders and Leslie Grantham lived life as large as his most famous character. He was convicted of murder and served ten years in prison. What is interesting is that Louise Jameson ( Leela), who was a prison visitor, met him and was one of the people who encouraged him to go into acting.
He played a small Doctor Who role as Kiston, a mechanical engineer, in ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ Davros took control of Kiston’s mind after he was summoned to make repairs to Davros’s chair and he was eventually killed by the Supreme Daleks.
What has been your favourite moment of the Twitch summer so far ? Post your thoughts on here or on Twitter. Let’s talk!
With Comic-Con only a week away, and some anxiety over gasp Americans seeing Series 11 footage first, Mark Donaldson looks at Doctor Who’s American connections and conventions to analyse why the US market is key to the continued success of the show.
A few weeks ago, at the beginning of England’s campaign to win the World Cup every 52 years, a rumour had begun to circulate. It claimed that a trailer for Series 11 would play during halftime of the England/Tunisia game, and even garnered a baffled response from John Barrowman. The claim was unfounded and Gary Lineker was spared from delivering another awkward intro to some Doctor Who footage. The trailers non-existence aggravated a number of vocal fans who were absolutely furious about the likelihood of a Comic-Con premiere for footage. A leaked 50-second clip soon followed, which probably cooled down a few internet hotheads (whilst turning the temperature up on some others). The ire of some of those forced to wait until after the Comic-Con panel seemed to be rooted in proprietary nationalism. A British show? Made by British people? Previewing first to Americans? Who won the bloody war of independence anyway?
But of course, Series 11 is launching in San Diego with a panel discussion and probable trailer (or the leaked 50-second clip). Whilst Doctor Who might sometimes feel like it’s ours, it’s also a strong, independent intellectual property that exists as part of the larger “geek” landscape, which should be allowed to hang out with whoever it wants.
Comic-Con is, first and foremost, a trade show. It’s the Cannes Film Festival with either a more relaxed or more outrageous dress-code, depending on your opinions of cosplay. This is where the new series of Marvel’s Iron Fist will be launched, where you’ll be able to see footage from the hotly anticipated Wonder Woman 1984 or attend a 10th-anniversary reunion and reminiscence over the seminal Breaking Bad. The eyes of the entertainment industry are on the San Diego Convention Center every year so where better to premiere footage from the new series of the world’s longest-running science fiction series? There’s no difference between Chris Chibnall and Jodie Whittaker talking to fans in a hall the size of an aircraft hanger and Chris Chibnall and Jodie Whittaker talking to marketers, licence holders and invited press in a Liverpool hotel.
Much as some of us would still like to entertain the notion of Doctor Who as an unassuming, quirky little British sci-fi show, it’s actually a globally successful brand. The highlight of the Complete Series 8 boxed set was Earth Conquest: The World Tour; a documentary following Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman as they travelled to countries like South Korea and Mexico to promote their upcoming series together. It’s a joyous watch and testament to the work that Steven Moffat put into extending the appeal of the show around the world. Key to this was Series 6, which to some is perhaps a failed experiment, but is the closest Doctor Who has ever got to aping the model of the American network show. There was a linking narrative which reached a peak halfway through, leaving our characters on an almighty cliffhanger which would not be resolved for a few months. The additional support of BBC America and the location filming for the stand-out series opener The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon also helped to entice American audiences.
Which is not to suggest that there was no relationship between Doctor Who and the USA prior to 2011. Since PBS began airing the Tom Baker serials in 1978, there was a strong American fan base, something John Nathan-Turner was keen to capitalise on in his time as executive producer. JN-T’s Transatlantic jaunts included the Doctor Who USA trailer tour, travelling around the states from 1986 to 1988 with various props and costumes on display whilst past Doctors and companions appeared in various US towns. The tour also included the first public appearance by Sylvester McCoy, three days prior to the “official” announcement of his casting as the 7th Doctor. There seems to have been less of an outcry over this than more recent US previews. Given the public confrontation between certain fans (including one future showrunner) and Pip & Jane Baker, there was maybe a feeling that the Americans were welcome to this formerly beloved show.
Doctor Who at Comic-Con isn’t a new development either, David Tennant received a rapturous welcome at his first appearance, as has each actor that has succeeded him. Wonky YouTube footage of a trailer for The End of Time made it online straight after, and in recent years, given the global online world, the BBC tends to release the Comic-Con trailers on their official YouTube channels straight after. Therefore, you probably won’t have long to wait until whatever is shown in San Diego makes it online through official channels. In fact, maybe you’ve already seen it via those unofficial channels.
And anyway, it’s not as if they’ll be screening a whole episode in advance like Fox did with the 1996 TV Movie or Amazon did by accidentally posting out the complete S7 boxed sets early so that fans were able to find out The Name of the Doctor before everyone else. The proper launch of the series will be an as yet unannounced date in October. Sure, it’s difficult, the Jodie Whittaker announcement was almost a year ago, and we’ve only had 60 minutes of new Doctor Who in that time. But that’s no reason to get proprietorial over our little British show that now belongs to everyone the World over. Comic-Con is strictly business, what is upsetting about those panels is that it’s rare for UK fans to have an equivalent. But the UK convention circuit and its gradual Americanisation is a topic for another time. In the meantime, Doctor Who will return in October, the promotional circuit begins at Comic-Con, and there are certain to be all sorts of clips, articles and interviews between now and then. If you still insist on being petty, consider that due to time differences, we’ll always get brand new episodes of Doctor Who hours before the Americans.
2016 was a sorry year for us Whovians, with no new series of the show on television, there was very little circulating except for the fantastic Big Finish audiobooks. Then it was announced earlier in that year that the BBC had been working on a brand new spin-off, one set in Coal Hill School. A project called Class.
For some fans, this was welcomed news, something new from the Doctor Who universe we could treat our eyes too. Some fans condemned it there and then but no foul-mouthing from them could halt the project. Sure enough on the 22nd October, the premiere episode, For Tonight, We Might Die aired and the series was finally available for all to see. We know how it all ended.
But Big Finish has announced that the series is coming back in the audio treatment. And again, the show has been treated with the same condemning from some vocal fans of the parent show. But Big Finish has an excellent way of taking things that weren’t all they could have been and turned them around. It is my belief that the same will happen to Class and it will find its home on audio.
I’ll quickly get this out of the way before I start properly, I enjoyed Class, I thought it was ten times better than many viewers. Of course, I wasn’t blind to its faults and believe me, there were a few but overall I really enjoyed the ride. I gave a good review on my own blog here.
But enough about me lets get on with the point of this article, the trial of Class.
Class was headed by a young-adult author, Patrick Ness who knew the show’s target audience very well. The majority of the characters in the show felt like teenagers, even if they were slightly exaggerated versions of them. There was the intelligent one in Tanya, the strong one in April, the jock in Ram and the slight outsider in Charlie. We even had the surrogate, (albeit reluctantly), mother in the form of Miss. Quill. Throw in Matteusz and we’ve got a whole gang who work brilliantly together. These guys felt like they could be kids at your school or college.
Ness had a good handle on how teenagers act but not necessarily on how they talk. With a show running the line between The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood, swearing was always going to be included and teens do swear, but some words were put together in ways that didn’t make sense. Having these characters say things that teenagers were ‘supposed’ to be saying was cringe-worthy, even I felt that as a teenager in 2016.
The acting was great though. Greg Austin, Jordan Renzo, Vivian Operah, Katherine Kelly, Fady Elsayed and Katherine Kelly always made sure they did the absolute best with the material they were given, which was, mostly top-notch. As with every series, there were always going to be a few duff episodes but the show had really begun to come into its own by the time its finale The Lost, (a subject I’ll get to in a moment,) and absolutely deserved a second series just on the basis of how this one finished!
Greg Austin and Katherine Kelly had an already established chemistry as they had worked together on a couple of big projects before Class came along. I knew who Katherine Kelly was from her time on Coronation Street which I’ve had to endure anytime I’ve been around my Grandparents’ house, but the rest of the cast were unknowns. With the exception of read-through’s, television doesn’t a rehearsal time, prior to going in front of the cameras these days and sometimes, this can really show up an actor who isn’t matching the performance of their co-star. But all the cast looked like they had been acting together for years in the scenes they all featured in, even if those were few and far between.
That was a major issue for Class, the whole gang were very rarely together in the same scene. One of two was always off doing something else while the others were sorting things out. An episode where this is really evident is episode three – Nightvisiting – where Tanya, Ram & April, Miss Quill and Charlie & Matteusz spend most of the episode apart only to come together in a rather Sarah Jane Adventures move when Miss Quill drives through the alien with a double-decker. (Sarah Jane did it with a bus when she and Maria were trying to get into the Bubbleshock factory in Invasion of the Bane). Had the characters been together in episodes for longer, they might have worked better as a well-oiled machine. You only to look at the conclusion to For Tonight, We Might Die and The Lost to see what I mean. The Doctor and Tanya work out how to stop the Shadow Kin, Charlie and Miss Quill fend them away, April offers them an ultimatum and Ram smacks the king round the back of the head with a chair.
I’ve mentioned The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood a few times so far so let’s have a look at why they worked slightly better than Class did. Class suffered because it didn’t have an established Doctor Who character involved. I understand that Class wanted to be its own thing in the Doctor Who mythos but both TheSarah Jane Adventures, Torchwood, even the Australian K-9 series were using characters from the parent show but forging their own path.
Its been announced that Ace will be featured in the new audio adventures and this instantly gives us fans someone to invest in, in this new product. Given how she was supposed to feature at the end of the Fifth series of Sarah Jane Adventures, she would have been the perfect character to feature in the Class television series. Or Ian Chesterton, given how the building the action took place in was called The Barbara Wright building and it was established that Ian was a governor at the school.
Mr Armitage was the head teacher in The Caretaker and Dark Water but how cool would it have been had the headmistress been the mysterious Susan Foreman?! Of course, Mr Armitage meets a sticky end in the middle of The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo and I don’t think longtime viewers of Doctor Who would have been happy had Susan been killed off that way, I know I wouldn’t have.
For Tonight, We Might Die did feature the Twelfth Doctor but that was no way to set the series off. The pilot episode should have been a great way of establishing these characters as a team, Revenge of the Slitheen allows the gang in Sarah Jane to bond, gel and come together and defeat the villain. Torchwood did the same in Everything Changes/Day One. The Doctor is referenced but never seen, though he did put in appearances later on, the shows were already established with the Doctor fitted in as best as possible. And it shouldn’t be that the Doctor gets his ‘Doctor’ moment in a spin-off show. Although he has that terrific speech that was memed, tweeted and reshared to hell from The Zygon Inversion, I would argue his true ‘Doctor’ moment came when he was facing down the Shadow Kin.
Miss Quill: “Well, there’s nothing left to do then is there but to die well.
The Doctor: “You know, I never thought that was possible, dying well?”
Still, Peter Capaldi’s performance is excellent as always, even if Patrick Ness has written him like the Tenth Doctor.
Corakinus: “We’re here for the Cabinet.”
The Doctor: “Oh…the Cabinet…Well, there’s this terribly painful shop here called Ikea…”
On the subject of the Shadow Kin, how did they work as the main villains for the series? Well, quite well, in as far as an invading force like The Daleks, as they didn’t really have many motivations besides invading planets. The Daleks have always been fun because they have been the main staple of Doctor Who since 1963, we are used to seeing them Exterminating, Annihilating and Destroying.
But the parallels between the Daleks and the Nazi Party has never been blurred. In 1963, Terry Nation created and wrote the Daleks from his experiences in WW2. The Thals were the Jewish people and the Daleks were their WW2 oppressors. And that theme has never been lost, the Daleks want to wipe out anything they perceive as below themselves. The Shadow Kin only work because they are evil and invading planets is what they do. It is a character trait that gets quite old, quite fast.
But they work on their first and last appearances, we see how ruthless they are in For Tonight, We Might Die and The Lost, (I remember what a shock it was to see Ram and Tanya’s parent’s killed). Their other appearances in Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart & Brave-ish Heart, they fair a lot worse, being used for comedic value in Co-Owner and in Brave-Ish, did absolutely naff-all. And the way that April kept swinging those scimitars around was quite cringe-worthy!
The other baddies in this series were a lot more interesting, the alien vines that projected images of your dead loved ones, the carnivorous petals and the strange meteor and the Arn Devil proved to be much more interesting foes. The meteor brought everyone’s fears to light as well as some ugly truths, the petals had everyone at each other’s throats in how they wanted to deal with the threat and the alien vines had some very interesting reactions from people at home who had gone through the same thing as Tanya.
I had lost my father when I was seventeen too a brain tumour a few years before Class aired. Nightvisiting was a very interesting view for me, Tanya is confronted with a vision of her dead father and it made me wonder how would I have reacted to the same thing. I would have certainly acted with a little more shock than Tanya does, I would have probably sworn a lot and then passed out. But would I have taken his hand…
One major problem with Class was that it suffered from the lack of promotion from the BBC at the time. We were handed a number of promotional shots and that was it. There were no interviews ahead of time, no trailers on BBC1. There was nothing of note until the series landed in our laps. And it landed on BBC3. Now, I’m sorry, but BBC3 is a dead channel, it always has been seen, but it came off our screens and was a streaming only channel, its gone even further down the toilet. This series would have done so much better at either 8pm or 9pm on BBC2 like Torchwood did. It is a shame on the BBC that there was so little care taken with this series.
The sub-plots in Class were often a lot more interesting than the main ones, especially the one concerning the mysterious governors. Given how Coal Hill School was home to a mysterious crack in space and time, it was inevitable that some shady organisation decided to be involved behind the scenes. The headmistress, Dorothea Ames, played excellently by Pooky Quesnel has some brilliant input in the series, she pulls a gun on her students, Charlie and Matteusz, understands is knowledgeable on how April and Corakinus share a heart and takes Miss Quill on a trip to her home planet in a make-shift time machine so she can get the Arn, a device to keep her in line, out of her eye.
It all comes to ahead in the surprisingly good finale, The Lost where the Governors decide that Dorothea has failed in her mission and all turn their backs on her. Who should appear at that moment but the Weeping Angels and from those few moments, they were scarier than they have ever been since Blink. They tear her head around and kill her.
Going from that shocking reveal at the end of the series it is a shame that we never got that second series. From what I understand, it was supposed to surround a Weeping Angel Civil War but it would have been so cool to see those creatures, who worked so much better than the Shadow Kin, up against the gang from Coal Hill. Alas, we will never get to see that.
One last thing that Class was particularly good at was its LGBTQ+ representation. Doctor Who and its spin-off shows have never been shy about including this, Russell T. Davies had characters like Captain Jack and Alonso, among others and Steven Moffatt had Jenny, Vastra and Bill as well as most of the Roman centurions in The Eaters of Light. It will be interesting to see what Chris Chibnall does. Had The Sarah Jane Adventures continued, Russell T. Davies would have written that Luke had found love with his friend from University. The pair would have come back and we would have gotten Luke’s coming out story.
Class had a gay-couple as one of their main characters, Charlie and Matteusz. It was an interesting relationship because of how real it felt, thanks to the brilliant chemistry between actors, Greg Austin and Jordan Renzo. Charlie and Miss. Quill didn’t care or understand why some people shun the ideas of homosexuality. But Matteusz states that his family is deeply religious and don’t approve. The beginning of Nightvisiting even tells us that his family kicked him out, forcing him to live with Charlie and Miss. Quill.
With Jenny and Vastra living in Victorian times, Stephen Moffatt was able to show us how much times had changed and indeed, the pupils around Charlie and Matteusz didn’t care that they were dating. That isn’t meant in a horrible way, they just didn’t see anything wrong with it, which is the way the world should be. People shouldn’t have a say in who someone can or can’t love, no matter what creed, colour, size or sexuality you happen to be. Maybe this was the most important lesson that Class had to teach the world.
I said at the beginning of this large piece of waffle, that I enjoyed Class when it originally aired. I still do, even if I’m not blind to its faults. It is a shame that we didn’t get that second series for it. Like composer, Blair Mowat said in Doctor Who Magazine:
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Torchwood were still finding their feet in their opening year.”
And that was really what Class was doing, it was slowly finding its feet. The second season of Buffy is some of the best television I’ve seen produced, I’ve no doubt that Class would have strived to reach those heights. Now that Big Finish has taken the show on and are about to give it a brand new lease on life, maybe it will. With the inclusion of Ace and the Daleks, I’ve no doubt it will be a hit.
Welcome to Episode 194…
The BBC isn’t messing around with the recent leak and is off to court to track down and punish the naughty individual.
The upcoming primer/volume 0 issue of the Thirteenth Doctor’s comic run starting this September has had some details released.
Series 24 is an odd beast to contend with. McCoy’s first run around the block certainly divides opinion but how does this series finale hold up? Voted as McCoy’s most popular story around the time of the 40th anniversary, do we concur or are we left hanging. Literally?
Thank you for joining us for 194. Next week it’s Torchwood’s turn with Cyberwoman. Have a grrrrrreat week and until next time – Allons-y!
“THERE ARE WORLDS OUT THERE WHERE THE SKIES ARE BURNING. WHERE THE SEA’S ASLEEP AND THE RIVERS DREAM. PEOPLE MADE OF SMOKE AND CITIES MADE OF SONG. SOMEWHERE THERE’S DANGER, SOMEWHERE THERE’S INJUSTICE AND SOMEWHERE ELSE THE TEA’S GETTING COLD. COME ON ACE, WE’VE GOT WORK TO DO…”
They were the last words many fans of Doctor Who ever thought they would hear. Cancelled by the BBC in 1989, Doctor Who came to a close with Survival which saw the Seventh Doctor and Ace return to Ace’s hometown of Perivale where her friends had begun to go missing. What followed was a story which featured alien worlds, Cheetah People, an evil street cat and the last appearance on screen of Anthony Ainley’s incarnation of the Master.
In many ways, it was the best way to close the series out. The Master had seemingly been defeated and whether they knew it or not, the production team had given all the Doctor’s biggest enemies a fitting conclusion. The Daleks got theirs in Remembrance of the Daleks and the Cybermen in Silver Nemesis. The Master vanished at the end of Survival and the Doctor and Ace walk off into the sunset together ready for more adventures.
What followed were years of uncertainty, was the show ever going to come back? Would Sylvester McCoy still be in the lead role, John Nathan-Turner still the showrunner? But alas, despite protests from fans, Doctor Who was relegated to the scrapheap with the heads of the BBC at the time, who couldn’t see a good thing when it was in front of them. Then in 1991, the show came back in a different format and things began to change…
THE VIRGIN NEW ADVENTURES
June 1991 saw the continuation of the show come back in a brand new format, novels. Distributed by Virgin Publishing, the Seventh Doctor and Ace blasted back into fan’s lives with Timewrym: Genesis by John Peel. But fans weren’t prepared for just how adult these novels would be. With scenes of swearing, sex and gratuitous violence, these novels proved to be a little too much. Indeed, one scene featuring a topless teenage prostitute in Timewrym: Genesis made public headlines.
Timewrym: Genesis was the first story in a four-part arc that saw the Doctor and Ace travelling from Ancient Mesopotamia and meeting the legendary Gilgamesh to Nazi-occupied England and the planet Kirith. The fourth novel, Timewrym: Revelation is heralded by many as the book where the series entered truly adult territory.
Love and War, by future show-writer, Paul Cornell, saw the departure of Ace and the introduction of popular companion, Bernice Summerfield. What is even more shocking is that it introduced the idea that the Seventh Doctor had killed his previous incarnation, something that wouldn’t come to full-fruition till later in Head Games.
Over the course of the novels, the Seventh Doctor became darker and darker. He would purposely place his companions, Ace, Bernice, Chris and Roz in danger. Ace and Bernice were separated in time in a nasty scheme of the Doctor’s, Bernice was left to be tortured and brutally injured by the Nazi’s in Just War, Roz was killed in So Vile A Sin and Chris was faced with the idea he had killed millions of people in Eternity Weeps which also saw the death of past companion – Liz Shaw.
Eventually, the Virgin New Adventures came to a close with The Dying Days, which actually featured Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor. The adventures of the Seventh Doctor came to a close with the previous novel, Lungbarrow, which also brought to a close Andrew Cartmel’s master plan for the show.
THE MISSING ADVENTURES
Running almost concurrently with the New Adventures, Virgin Publishing also saw to it that it wasn’t just the Seventh Doctor who was given a revival. In July 1994, the Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa faced a horde of Vampires in Goth Opera.
The debut of Goth Opera wasn’t without its problems however as WHSmith wouldn’t publish the book with its original cover. Nyssa is bitten by a baby Vampire and the cover had her, in full Vampire getup with a blooded nightgown. The original cover had so much blood on the nightgown that bookstores wouldn’t stock it, leading to the cover needing to be altered.
Over the four years of publication, each previous incarnation of the Doctor got a number of brand new adventures, some fit perfectly in with the established continuity of the show and others were a little harder to place. The Sixth Doctor was given a new companion in the form of Grant Markham for the novels, Time of Your Life and Killing Ground and a number of books worked as either prequels or sequels to established and popular television serials: The Sands of Time – Pyramids of Mars, The Shadow of Weng-Chiang – The Talons of Weng-Chiang and Twilight of the Gods – The Web Planet.
There were even a couple of books which were designed to be stories in which companions decided to leave. For Dodo, The Man in the Velvet Mask saw her contracting a disease in an alternate universe version of the French Revolution and The Dark Path saw Victoria Waterfield being so emotionally abused by the Master that she made her mind up concerning her departure in the following story, Fury of the Deep.
It wasn’t just the Doctor and his companions who came back though, a number of established villains put in appearances, The Cybermen, The Master, The Silurians, The Sontarans, The Rani and the Valyard, The Black Guardian and the Ogrons all got stories for themselves. Even the Seventh Doctor got an appearance in Cold Fusion when he met his previous Fifth incarnation and his companions Tegan, Nyssa and Adric.
THE BBC BOOKS – THE PAST DOCTOR ADVENTURES (PDAs) & THE EIGHTH DOCTOR ADVENTURES
When the BBC decided that Virgin Publishing was getting too much attention thanks to their license to publish new novels, the BBC took their permission back and began to publish novels of their own. June 1997 saw the Third Doctor, Liz Shaw and UNIT make a return in The Devil Goblins from Neptune by Martin Day and Keith Topping.
The range of PDAs continued until December 2005, after the first series of the Modern Series had come to a conclusion. Atom Bomb Blues featured the Seventh Doctor and Ace and was written by Andrew Cartmel.
The range of novels took different Doctors and Companions from Victorian Times to Ancient Japan, the Far Future, the English Civil War, the very edge of the known universe and Hollywood amongst other exotic locations. A number of novels featured returning villains including The Master, The Celestial Toymaker, Autons and Morbius.
The Eighth Doctor Adventures (EDAs) was much in the same vein as the Virgin New Adventures by giving the Eighth Doctor a set of adventures set after the Television Movie. Terrance Dicks penned the first novel – The Eight Doctors – which also introduced us to the new companion for the Eighth Doctor, Sam.
In the novel, The Taint, a brand new companion, Fitz joined the crew and the gang of the Eighth Doctor, Sam and Fitz continued until Interference: Book 2. New companions were then introduced in the form of Anji, Trix and Compassion, as well as the Eighth Doctor, getting a number of solo novels.
Old foes including the Daleks, Ancient Vampires, Krotons and Zygons put in appearances as did some allies in the form of Romana, The Brigadier, Jo Grant, UNIT, Iris Wildthyme, Sarah Jane, K-9 and the Third Doctor. The EDAs concluded in June 2005 with The Gallifrey Chronicles.
BBV VIDEO & AUDIO
Founded by Bill Baggs in 1991, BBV was an enterprise to create new material using as many Doctor Who characters as the BBC would allow between Survival and Rose. BBV produced not only films but audio adventures as well.
1992 saw the first release, Summoned by Shadows from a series called The Stranger which saw Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant reunite as The Stranger and Miss Brown, basically The Doctor and Peri in a way the BBC would allow them. BBV cast many Doctor Who stars in title roles or their original ones throughout their years of production and The Stranger came to an end with Eye of the Beholder in 1995. The Stranger later returned in audio format running from The Last Mission to Force of Nature.
Following The Stranger was a standalone release, not really with anything to do with the father-show, The Airzone Solution, which featured many Doctor Who stars and was set in the near future during a conspiracy.
Next out from BBV was perhaps what the company is best known for – The P.R.O.B.E Series. P.R.O.B.E starring Caroline John as Liz Shaw as she worked for an organisation who delved into the paranormal and unusual. It also featured a number of Who stars including, Louise Jameson, Peter Davison, Jon Pertwee, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, Terry Molloy, Geoffrey Beavers, Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith.
All four releases in the P.R.O.B.E series were penned by Mark Gatiss who brought his love for horror and the paranormal to the fore with all four stories. I have a particular love for the P.R.O.B.E series and have to biasedly say they are absolutely wonderful!
Then we had the Auton Trilogy – Auton, Sentinel & Awakening. The series dealt with UNIT and their continuing battles with the plastic monsters.
BBV would later put out some more standalone movies, Soul’s Ark, Cyberon, Do You Have a Licence to Save this Planet? and the stupidly risqué, Zygon: When Being You Just Isn’t Enough.
BBV also made a number of audio adventures. K-9 and Romana returned in K-9 and his Mistress, the Zygons in a trilogy, Krynoids, Sontarans, Rutan’s, The I, Guy de Carnac, The Rani, Wirrn and The Faction Paradox all got the audio treatment too.
The Professor and Ace was BBV’s own continuation of the parent show which ran from Rebulica to Punchline.
Much in the same vein as BBV, Reeltime put out a number of independent dramas throughout the Wilderness Years. In 1988, Jon Benton got his own thirty-minute film, Wartime which dealt with his history and the ghosts haunting his present.
1995 saw Downtime hit our home-systems and featured the return of many popular Doctor Who companions including Victoria Waterfield, Sarah Jane Smith and the Brigadier as well as Professor Travers, the Great Intelligence and the Yeti. Downtime was also novelised as part of the Missing Adventures range and was expanded to include a couple of incarnations of the Doctor, K-9 and Brigadier Bambara. Downtime was also notable for being the first time fans of the show were introduced to Kate Stewart, the daughter of the Brigadier who would go on to lead UNIT alongside the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors. She will return in the upcoming Anamoly – featuring the return of the Kronovores.
Other releases include the Mindgame Trilogy featuring Draconians, Sontarans, Rutans and Sophie Aldred and Daemos Rising which featured a return to Devils’ End and the Daemons.
Reeltime recently released a new film, The White Witch of Devils End, featuring the return of Damaris Hayman as Olive Hawthorne who had originally featured in The Daemons.
And who could forget Big Finish? Their back catalogue is massive but it first came into being in 1996, they weren’t allowed to make any Doctor Who audio adventures. So they went to Paul Cornell and got his permission to use Bernice Summerfield who has gone on to enjoy a lot of fame in Doctor Who circles thanks to Big Finish and the fantastic performance from Lisa Bowerman.
Because of the success of the Bernice Summerfield range, in 1999, The Sirens of Time featured Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy and the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors. From then, the company has gone from strength to strength producing a plethora of ranges, not just Doctor Who.
What Big Finish has also done is give a number of Doctor Who characters a renaissance, the Sixth Doctor, Mel, Peri, Tegan, Nyssa, Turlough, the Seventh Doctor, The Eighth Doctor, Susan, Victoria, Polly and Zoe are all characters who Big Finish have worked their magic over and have become some of the most popular characters in their output.
Big Finish also gave the definitive canon adventures for the Eighth Doctor starting from Storm Warning and still going today. And we’ve had a lot of excellent original companions: Evelyn, Charley, Hex, C’Rizz, Erimem, Bev, Frobisher, Elizabeth Klein, Thomas Brewster, Amy & Zara, Mary Shelly, Flip, Liv Chenka, Sally, Will, Hannah Bartholomew and Constance Clarke, not to mention all those in the spinoff ranges!
Big Finish really is the place to be for fans of Doctor Who!
While many fans thought that Survival would be the final episode of Doctor Who to ever be produced on television, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Of course, all this comes down to what you count as canon, personally, I count all of this as canon, including things like The TV Movie and to a certain extent, Dimensions in Time, (please don’t kill me!).
Doctor Who might have been off the air but thanks to the novels, audios, independent productions, comics, independent fiction, video releases and the final Target Novels, Doctor Who was just undergoing an experimentation like never before.
When the show returned in 2005, the show felt like that of the later years of the Seventh Doctor’s tenure and novels, Rose clearly had elements of Ace and thanks to these Wilderness Years, the show came back in a way it had never done before.
People think of The Wilderness Years as a time when Doctor Who didn’t exist. But they would be wrong as the show was going on as strong as ever in many different formats, Doctor Who hadn’t been away, it had undergone a change. And things would never be the same again.
It isn’t like nowadays when we get a handful of action figures and three tie-in novels if we’re lucky…