Saturday, July 16, 2005

Doctor Who in Brighton

The new BBC Doctor Who exhibition in Brighton, which opened on the 14 May 2005, is an impressive affair. It's sited at the end of the main Brighton Pier in a large domed building. The work that has gone into it is amazing - and more impressive is the publicity. As we were driving into Brighton, one of the roads was adorned all the way along with banners on every streetlight promoting the exhibition. Then, on the pier itself are many more banners each showing different elements from the exhbition. At the entrance to the pier itself there's a Police Box and large advert for it as well. It's hard to miss that the Doctor is in town. The exhibition itself has a separate ticket booth, but once tickets are bought, you move into the main dome. First up are the two makeover androids from 'Bad Wolf'. These are even more impressive in real life, and the attention to detail is astounding. Moving around them, and there's a small tribute to the first 42 years of the show's history, with booths containing information on the Doctors and some of their foes. There are also some original costumes sited behind the displays which are quite hard to see. Then it's into a main area where a large TARDIS is revolving sedately in the centre, two sides showing as Police Box and the other two cut away to reveal the original costumes for Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper. Around this area are large murals of pictures and information about the show. There's some panels from the TARDIS interior and an original design model as well. Around the corner and we're into 'Rose' with an Auton model perched up high ... a wheelie bin and three Auton Brides crashing through a shop window. Then it's to 'The Unquiet Dead' and an area with a mysterious shrouded figure on a slab ... all the displays have audio/visuals and clips from the shows playing on screens. 'The Unquiet Dead' area is good, but a little uneventful. It's a shame that more costumes weren't on display here, or Sneed's cart and so on. It's good, but perhaps a little bare. I think I might have tried for a dingy, small corridor here, with flickering 'gas' lights along the sides and spooky funereal music playing, and then projected a Gelth onto the walls and made it flicker from 'good' blue to 'bad' red ... Around the corner and it's 'The End of the World'. Unfortunately both Cassandra and The Face of Boe were away when we visited, but it was nice to see the Moxx, costumes for the Trees and several props from the story. Next up is the Dalek! Hovering on a flight of stairs, the creature will turn it's eye to look at you when a button is pressed ... nice idea. Also here was the Emperor Dalek model from 'The Parting of the Ways' and lots of other bits and pieces besides, like the alien musical instrument. Around the corner again and we have the magnificent model of the Big Ben clocktower, all smashed in, and then the Slitheen, the alien pig and Margaret Blaine's skin ... The Slitheen can be made to fart on cue with a button ... Finally, we have a small display from 'The Empty Child' of a gas mask and the Schlecter Bomb ... again, slightly disappointing. Overall it's a superb exhibition, full of lights and sound and lots and lots to see. I'm told that more items are to be added as the year progresses, and I hope that some of the episodes without much presence at the moment will be represented, like 'The Long Game' or 'Father's Day'. Just before you exit the exhibition tent, there is a shop area selling piles of merchandise, including a load of items especially created for the exhibition, like CD cases, mini-tool sets, clocks, calculators, a mousemat, pens and other things. Other things I liked: the 'Bad Wolf' graffiti on the way out (but why wasn't it elsewhere in the exhibition ... they could run a 'hunt the Bad Wolf' competition to find all the references); the Dalek shell with the creature inside from 'Dalek'; Mickey's disembodied Auton head; and the fact that the place was packed - it was an incredibly hot Sunday afternoon that we went down, and the pier was heaving with people ... and there was no air conditioning in the Doctor Who area so air blowers had been set up. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves though. Outside the Exhibition, and back towards the entrance to the pier is a pub selling the most amazing chips and sausage (and beer and wine and coke) and the prices aren't too bad as well ... so it's well worth stopping off there for some good old fashioned English grub.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Brighton Toy Museum

Went down to Brighton last weekend both to see the new Doctor Who Exhibition there (more on that later on when I get the pictures sorted out), but also to install a pile of my Doctor Who merchandise into the Brighton Toy Museum.
Me with the display.
It was great to see all the items together, and I always enjoy sharing them with others. The display was arranged in conjunction with Experience Design and Management who are running the Doctor Who Exhibition, and it should be at the Toy Museum until at least the end of the year.

The main display of toys

If anyone wants to visit, then the Museum is up by Brighton Station. Out the front of the station there is a road which steeply heads down underneath the pedestrian area here. This road is called Trafalgar Street and the Museum is about 200 yards or so down there on the left. The full address and contact details are: Brighton Toy and Model Museum, 52-55 Trafalgar Street, Brighton BN1 4EB Tel: 01273 749494. They are closed on Sundays and Mondays; 10am - 5pm other days (11am start on Saturdays).

Nothing at the End of the Lane

The other day I received the second edition of a rather superb fanzine called Nothing at the End of the Lane ... now to actually have a print fanzine these days is a joy in itself as there are precious few still being produced, but to get something which is just so good ... The fanzine concentrates on Doctor Who research and restoration and this edition has numerous articles looking at just that.

First off is a piece chronicling the history of the Howe's Transcendental Toybox book to print. This piece was largely written by Richard Bignell from numerous interviews with myself and features unused covers and so on from the books.

John Cura is the next subject, and in a brilliantly researched and written piece, Cura's life and work is chronicled for the first time ever. For those who don't know, Cura was the man behind the tele-snaps - small black and white photographs from early Doctor Who taken from the television and which are now the only visual record of some of those early episodes. This article was superb ... showing how pioneering Cura was and how invaluable his service was to the television industry.

Then there's some articles looking at the BBC film vaults and video archives, detailing what is there and what has been found and so on. There's an interview with Michael Stevens from the BBC Audio Collection about the recent Power of the Daleks tele-snap reconstruction CD.

Derek Handley, who for many years has made his own reconstructions of missing episodes on video using the audio soundtrack and whatever images he can find looks at how his work compares with the telesnaps and with an episode rediscovered after he did his own reconstruction. This is fascinating stuff, and it's impressive how accurate Dereks's 'guesses' were as to what the visuals might be.

Then there's a very sad and poignant piece by Andrew Pixley about the junking of all the 60s episodes ... with a wipe they were gone for ever...

A piece about Doctor Who on 8mm film and what exists in that format is novel and informative both about the development, rise and fall of 8mm film, and of the various clips and film taken off the television which exist.

The whole magazine is topped off with a complete listing of what the BBC holds (or is known to exist) from all the missing Hartnell and Troughton Doctor Who episodes, and finally a selection of colourised telesnaps from some Hartnell episodes which are simply awesome. I loved these and would dearly love to see a true recolourised episode created by Stuart Humphreys who coloured these. Go on BBC DVD ... you know it makes sense to ask.

Overall the magazine is printed on really nice, good quality heavy stock, the print quality is superb and sharp and it's one of the most detailed and informative looks at the state of the archives in general that I have yet seen. I urge you to buy it. Visit the website at for details of how to do just that.

Friday, July 08, 2005

London Attack

I usually work up in London, but the end of this week I took off as holiday as I have editing and other stuff to do on the Telos book BACK TO THE VORTEX. So Imagine my surprise yesterday when my brother called about 11.30am to say that I bet I was pleased I wasn't in London ... what? Then he told me ... Then I watched the news ... And I went all cold and shakey and worried for my friends at work and elsewhere. London is where I live and work. It's my city and this was not right at all that anonymous terrorists could blow parts of it up. But as usual London reacted calmly and efficiently. I managed (finally) to get through to work and everyone seemed to be accounted for there :) And online, someone on the OG group assembled a cool set of comments from elsewhere and I thought I'd share them:

"NEWSFLASH:There has been a widespread outbreak of grumbling and tutting today in London, along with a large number of people going home instead of to work, with a certain amount of guilty pleasure.Sorry, bad guys. We've been bombed before, and we just adjust our day to account for it. This is London calling." ~ BBC Parliament

"To quote an old Londoner who lived through the blitz and got caught up in the Canary Wharf explosion: "I've been blown up by a better class of bastard than this!"

"It'll be easy to find any terrorists; everyone else will have just said "Bugger it. I'm off to the pub."
On days like this, the music radio stations play sad music - if they play any music at all. I turned on the radio in the bathroom when I was taking my shower just now, and they were playing One by U2.HAVEN'T WE SUFFERED ENOUGH?

I'm watching the news, I do it occasionally, it seems like a good time to do so. And I'm seeing a guy who was blown off his feet by a bus going up, but basically he's okay and being interviewed. And, shock allowed, he's pretty much laughing it off. Another interview, a woman who was on the tube, just the same response but maybe a little more detailed.I love the UK sometimes, I really do. What happened is horrible, I don't diminish it and I hope those responsible are suitably punished, possibly with chainsaws ... but if they wanted terror well, they probably shouldn't have gone to London. Not because Londoners are particularly braver than anyone else (although they might be, have you seen the prices there?) but because they've walked through a helluva lot worse than that.Nice try, no cigar.

"The great British Spirit triumphs once again! Take that, Al Quaeda. You tried to spread panic with your terrorist ways, but you hadn't counted on a nation of repressed, stiff-upper-lip Brits who refuse to show unseemly emotion in public!"

When the news reporter said "Shopkeepers are opening their doors bringing out blankets and cups of tea" I just smiled. It's like yes. That's Britain for you. Tea solves everything. You're a bit cold? Tea. Your boyfriend has just left you? Tea. You've just been told you've got cancer? Tea. Coordinated terrorist attack on the transport network bringing the city to a grinding halt? TEA DAMMIT! And if it's really serious, they may bring out the coffee. The Americans have their alert raised to red, we break out the coffee. That's for situations more serious than this of course. Like another England penalty shoot-out.

"It's hard to panic the British. They've dealt with the Blitz, the IRA, the Silurians, the Zarbi, the Daleks, the Cybermen..."

So Monday I'll be heading back into Town for work and will probably go for a walk at lunchtime. My thoughts are with everyone affected by this, the 100s of casualties and those killed and maimed and their families.

Peace to all