Saturday, November 30, 2013

Destiny of the Doctor: 7, 8, 9

Continuing my run through of the DESTINY OF THE DOCTOR CDs, we come to those for the seventh, eighth and ninth Doctors ... and they are a mixed bag.

For Sylvester McCoy's seventh Doctor, we see him paired with Sophie Aldred's Ace for 'Shockwave' by James Swallow.  I have always enjoyed Jim's writing and this is no exception, being something of a straightforward tale of a spaceship fleeing a disaster which has engulfed their homeworld. But there is a traitor on board, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who they are.  One problem I had here was that the rehabilitation of the traitor comes a little too easily I felt. But the story is well told and performed by Aldred and has a good sense of excitement about it.

For Paul McGann's ninth Doctor, we have 'Enemy Aliens' by Alan Barnes which pairs him with India Fisher as Charlie - one of the Big Finish audio companions and one which I never felt really worked. She doesn't work here also, coming over as too proclamatory and world-knowledgeable for my liking. The story is a bit daft too, being based around a musical cue, attacking monsters, and a cross country trip by train where the Doctor conveniently turns up in a coffin, and where just about every incidental character turns out to be a spy of some sort. I didn't really enjoy it to be honest, just found it a little muddled.

Finally we have 'Night of the Whisper' by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright, where we have Nicholas Briggs doing the narration chores, and, I must say, doing the most brilliant impression of Christopher Eccleston's ninth Doctor that I have ever heard! It is magnificent!  I loved the story here too, it seems to 'fit' the era nicely, and well done to Cavan and Mark for pulling it off.  The only issue I have is that John Schwab's American accent is very close to Briggs' own, and sometimes it's confusing who is speaking ...  but overall this is one of the better releases in the range.

There are two more to come ... and the final release got mixed up in AudioGo going into Administration ... luckily Big Finish managed to get hold of the stock and are selling the CD themselves ... so I have it ... need to listen to it ... and then I can pen my final comments on this 11 CD, year long adventure for the Doctor!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fire Burning Bright

One of the things that we really loved when we bought the house in which we now live, was that the front room had two fires in original surrounds.  One - the main one - was an old gas affair, which we had replaced with a more modern gas fire which really looks like it has coals in it, and which serves to heat the room nicely. The other, however, was an open fire, set in a beautiful original Victorian setting, with marble and inlay and bags of character.

We checked the chimney out and had it swept, and then we didn't use it!

This winter, both the radiators in the front room decided to stop working, and the room was chilly!  So earlier in the week, rather than spend money on gas and electric radiators, I got hold of some kindling and paper, bought some smokeless coals and firelighters, and set about discovering the joys of a real fire!

My Fire!

I love it! Cleaning out the hearth with metal spade-thing and brush. Scrunching the newspaper into balls, scattering crumbled firelighter brick (which smells of chemical paraffin) over them, and placing a larger chunk of the stuff in the centre ... then apply a match to the central brick. The flames burst slowly into life and the paper crackles as it's consumed. Then I place the kindling in a small tower around and over it.

The flames lick higher and when the wood is burning, I then carefully collapse the tower with lumps of the coal, building a small pile with a core of hot, burning wood beneath it.  The fire crackles and smoke is drawn up and out the chimney. It smells like autumn and comfort. Like childhood and those long, perfect evenings spent tending bonfires in the garden with my dad.

Sam and I then curl up with a glass of something red, watching the firelight playing on the glasses, the room lit with candles and flickering shadows. It's wonderful and cosy, and the fire seems to heat the room far better than the gas fire does. Indeed, because the open chimney runs the height of the house, the fire heats the other rooms too - very clever those house designers of long ago.

Every so often I'll move the coals around, add more, making the little fire bigger and more effective ... it's a strangely satisfying thing tending a fire ... sort of restful and relaxing. I love how the coals glow and crackle, how the new fuel smokes and steams for a time while it dries out and then starts to burn gently. Moreover there's a wonderful sense of calm ... just what we need in these hectic times.

I've just finished the editing and publication work on a new book for Telos called Celtic Spells - a collection of 52 simple spells (one for every week of the year), chants and meditations which guide people to a more thoughtful and spiritual association with nature and the wonders of the world around us. The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs and so this newfound delight at the simplicity of a hearth fire is well timed.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Doctor Who: The Web of Fear

It's hard to explain to other people this love affair that I have with an old television show called Doctor Who. Hard to get across just what it means ... when your life is measured by the beat and track of this one show. My earliest memories are of watching Doctor Who. I remember not watching the show too - the occasions when I was not allowed to because it was too scary ('The Ice Warriors'), or when we went on holiday to Wales when it wasn't on at the same time as in England, and as a result I missed episodes ('The Daemons'). Of coming home during holidays in Cornwall to watch episodes ('The Ambassadors of Death') ... I remember which episode we watched the first time my parents got colour television ('The Sea Devils' 4 - and thus I can tell them exactly which day of which year it was: 18 March 1972) ... I remember the first episode my dad recorded the audio of because UFO  was on the other channel ('The Curse of Peladon') ... so many memories.

And yet in these days of everything being available on DVD, or streamed from your television provider of choice, it is amazing to think that there were 106 episodes of Doctor Who which did not exist ... the BBC had thrown them away, wiped the tapes back in the sixties and seventies. This left original television soundtracks, recorded by fans using a variety of innovative means even before there was a socket on the television to allow you to do that. It left handfuls of photographs - some called 'telesnaps' taken of television monitors at the time, and recording an episode in sixty or so small photographs. But no visual, moving, record.  It became something of a joke that in the BBC's Written Archives centres, they had retained the scripts, the letters, the memos, the floorplans, the designs, photographs, sketches, costume fitting details, budget sheets, timing breakdowns, lists of all the extras, prop lists, costings and medical reports ... but they threw away the programmes that they all related to!

So when old episodes of Doctor Who are located, it's a Big Deal. Capital 'B', capital 'D'. And located they have been: old film prints, created and sold by the BBC back in the day to other countries, who then cycled them to other countries ... all so that everywhere from Nigeria to New Zealand could watch this strange science fiction show. Those countries took the film prints and stored them in vaults, in cupboards, and forgot about them ... until 45 years later, when enterprising archivists and television historians came knocking on their doors asking if they could just check the corners of their storerooms, just to see what might be there ... and sometimes ... just sometimes ... something turns up.

Recently, the BBC announced that nine somethings had indeed turned up. Nine episodes of Doctor Who returned to their own archives (for these days, of course, old television is worth something ... it can be sold again and again on DVD, on Blu-Ray, on iTunes ... lots and lots of ways to make more money from shows which, in the seventies, were considered well past their sell by date).

And to someone like me ... this is just incredible news. It's like Christmas and Birthday all come at once. Something I half-remembered watching in 1968 ... and now I can watch it again!  All those years of listening to the soundtracks, hearing the voices echoing to me through the years ... and now I can watch it again ... It's a feeling that is hard to explain in words ... hard to understand unless you are a fan of something.

And so, these nine episodes, comprising one complete Patrick Troughton story - 'Enemy of the World' - and all but one episode of another Troughton adventure - 'The Web of Fear' - are suddenly there. Such a shame that the one episode of 'The Web of Fear' is still missing ... but hey, this is stuff we never thought or expected to see again!  So just one episode being returned is a major piece of news ... heck, one scene from one story would be brilliant!  But nine whole episodes! Wowza!

So I figured out iTunes, how to set it up, how to buy the episodes which the Beeb had kindly made available ... and went for 'The Web of Fear'. No point in buying episode one - that already existed and I have it on DVD ... and no point buying episode three (the missing one) as that was just the soundtrack with photographs - I have the soundtrack already ... so four episodes downloaded later, and I'm ready to go.

So we watch through episode one - I'm on the couch, feeling excited. It's a great episode - always has been - which made the loss of the remaining so much more tragic ... if they only lived up to the promise of the first ...

Then ... the new episode two. And as it starts, my heart starts to thump in my chest. I still don't quite believe it. It's all a great hoax ... someone has just done a photo reconstruction and released that ... but the titles play ... and it says 'Episode Two' and I cheer! Wow.

25 minutes later, and I am speechless ... the episode is MAGNIFICENT. There's a brilliant battle with the Yeti in the underground part way through which took my breath away completely. I love it. It's stylish and brilliantly directed. The characters are leaping from the screen, and we have lots of people to get to know, and the time in which to know them. Strangely, the Doctor is absent from the episode but it seems not to matter somehow, the set-up and build is pervasive, and he's not missed (except by the actors of course).

Next up is the soundtrack for episode three - and here, surprisingly, the pictures are much clearer in my mind, carrying directly on from episode two ... and then into the fourth part, and WOW ... it's the Brigadier (only he's a Colonel here). I slide from the couch and sit in front of the telly ... it's so engrossing. The Yeti make me jump as they spring out from behind doors. There's that incessant bleeping as the cute little Yeti models summon the things ... and the acting ... Oh the acting ...

I love Private Evans - 'Driver, I am!' - and Nick Courtney is sublime in his debut performance as the character he made his own (he actually first appears in episode three ... and strangely, his feet seen in the second episode are not those of Nick Courtney, but of another actor, Maurice Brooks). Travers is superb, Anne is brilliant, there's Knight and Weames and Arnold ... oh it's so good!

The film sequence where the Colonel and his troops battle the Yeti is awesome! Establishing in one stroke similar battles between army/UNIT and Cybermen ('The Invasion') and Autons ('Spearhead from Space'). It's tense and just so, so brilliant. And it has the same eerie music as the Cybermen do in 'Tomb of the Cybermen' ... but it works! The web guns that the Yeti have are an (unexplained) masterstroke, and the shots of people dead and covered in web are unsettling and disturbing. Kudos to writers Haisman and Lincoln for coming up with the idea that robot Yeti would have guns that fire spiderweb at people to kill them! It's a gonzo genius idea that just works so well.

We move on to the final episodes, and see sets and details that there aren't even clear photographs of!  I love the endgame where all is revealed as to who the Great Intelligence is using. And this is creepy stuff with the Intelligence using the London Underground speaker system to talk to people in hideous whispering tones, or to hear poor Travers struggling against the possession as it uses his voice (compare this with the representation in the recent 'The Snowmen' story where it's Richard E Grant looking moody, or Ian McKellen's voice in a giant snowglobe: there really is no comparison. 'The Web of Fear' gets it so completely right, whereas 'The Snowmen' gets it so sadly wrong).

The two companions, Jamie and Victoria are far better characterised and presented here as well. Jamie shows his courage and strength, while Victoria also gets to shine. It's such a shame, for Frazer Hines as Jamie in particular, that all his best episodes seemed to be missing ones!  At last, with this return, we can see more of what made Jamie tick, and appreciate the masterful interplay between him, Troughton and Debbie Watling as Victoria. It's occasionally funny, touching and often tense as these three people care about each other deeply, and go along with the Doctor's wonderful child-like sense of exploring the unknown ... I love the line in episode one where the Doctor tells them he has no idea what's outside ... but invites them to go and explore anyway. And oh, they'll need torches!

But the Doctor ... oh the Doctor. My Doctor. The Second Doctor. Brilliant and mercurial, funny and watchable, scared and yet totally in control. This was the Doctor of my childhood, of my youth. My hero and my muse. The inspiration for me to want to write and get into making films, and to succeed ... he is just so brilliant. This story, more than any other, shows just how good Doctor Who can be. It shows why, even today, I can't go down the underground in London without peering down the tunnels, half expecting to see some Yeti standing there, silently. Waiting. Oh ... and cobwebs ...

This adventure has an edge, it has a story. It has characters you believe in and care about. I don't even know what the children were called in 'The Snowmen', or what the name of the ice-lady thing was that attacked them. I don't know the name of the pub that Clara was working at ... but I still shiver when passing through Covent Garden underground station. Or Goodge Street. And Professor Travers ... and poor Corporal Lane ... This is after forty-five years!

I finished watching the episodes in a state of euphoria. I have a new favourite ever story I feel. Something which has to be among the very best that television presented in the sixties. There had to be a reason why the story was so well regarded amongst fans. Why people remembered watching it so many years later. And now we can see why ... it is truly brilliant. It is the best exponent of a traditional formula (sometimes termed the 'base under siege' story) that there is. I'd like to think that it provides something of a wake-up call to the current writers and production team to up their game ... to be beaten so soundly at every level by something made forty-five years earlier is a little embarrassing to say the least.  But I enjoyed 'The Web of Fear' to a level far higher than any of the Doctor Who stories transmitted since the show came back in 2005. And that's not just because I am a fan. It is just better.

You don't need flashy CGI. You don't need multi-million pound budgets. You don't even need expensive guest stars. All you need is a brilliant, developed, mature and thoughtful script, and a director with the imagination and drive to realise it on screen. Douglas Camfield was feted as one of the best directors who ever worked on Doctor Who and with this story we can see why. Six episodes of magnificence, of creeping horror, of bravura performances and memorable visuals and sound effects. We even get to see dead people - and that's one of the biggest shocks of them all!

I shall stop now and rest my fingers. I will be watching 'The Web of Fear' again. And again. And again. If you have any interest in sixties television. Any interest in Doctor Who, then I urge you to get this story - it's available on DVD in February 2014, or on iTunes now. Get it. Watch it. Enjoy it. Relish it. I know I have.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

2014 Danilo Doctor Who Calendars

Thanks to the lovely folks at Danilo, I have copies of the two large calendars that are available now for 2014 ...

As you might expect, there's a 'standard' one which covers the season just transmitted; but also for this year, a special '50th Anniversary' calendar covering the series as a whole.

In the one for the 2012/2013 series (Season 7 for those interested in such designations, or Season 36 ...) it follows the standard pattern of celebrating each story on each month, so we have all the stories from 'Asylum of the Daleks' through to 'Name of the Doctor' with 'The Snowmen' thrown in for good measure in December.  The art is nice and I think is all by Lee Binding (I recognise some of the images as using elements from the 'posters' used to promote each story.

There's a couple of pics at the bottom of each page too, and the whole thing is really very attractive.

The 50th Anniversary Calendar takes a similar approach, giving each month over to a different Doctor, with December featuring all of them.  The art is gorgeous and is again (I think, though happy to be corrected) by Lee. Again, it's photo collages and is colourful, well designed and evocative. I love the Troughton piece especially.

Along with the two Calendars, there's also a 2014 diary, which is basically the same TARDIS design as the 2013 one!  It's dotted with new pics of the 11th Doctor, Clara, Ice Warrior, Cyberman and so on, and is a neat little slim pocket diary!

The Tomorrow People - Original Series

Sometimes I think I must be living on another planet.  When I was a wee nipper, along with Ace of Wands, Lost in Space and Doctor Who, I watched The Tomorrow People ... a series about a 'future' race of humans who had telepathy and could teleport themselves around.

I was convinced that many of the episodes no longer existed - probably because all I could find from my friends was a black and white copy of the first story ...  but it seems I was wrong, and they do all exist. And what's more they have all been released on DVD ...  And so to the watching ...


Here we are introduced to our Tomorrow People ... there's John (Nicholas Young), who is sensible, wears polo neck jumpers and has sideburns. He's also the eldest. Carol (Sammie Winmill), who is prone to snivelling and pointing at things dramatically - not to mention teleporting herself into John's bedroom unannounced!  And finally Kenny (Stephen Salmon), a pretty useless black kid who has a lisp and who gets left to mind the base all the time. The base is run by a computer called TIM - with a brilliant voice (Philip Gilbert) - who knows everything and who can enhance the powers that the TPs have, allowing them to teleport further, talk via communal telepathic links and so on.

The first story ('The Slaves of Jedikiah') follows the breaking out of a new TP, Stephen (Peter Vaughan-Clarke), and how the others help him to understand and come to terms with his new powers. Mixed in around this is a plot by an alien called Cyclops (Robert Bridges) to try and escape from where he is trapped in his spaceship using a robot servant called Jedikiah (Francis de Woolf).  There's much to like here ... the acting from John and Steven is excellent, and sort of makes up for the dreadful overacting of Carol and Jedikiah, and the acting 'blank' that is Kenny. Helping Jedikiah are two thugs, Leftie (Derek Crewe) and Ginge (Michael Standing), and while Leftie is rubbish, Ginge is pretty believable.

The story sets everything up nicely, and director Paul Bernard does a good job of bringing it all together. This is like kid's Doctor Who in many ways - played more for laughs (the thugs all fall over themselves all the time) and not wasting time on explanations.

The second story is 'The Medusa Strain', and here Count Rabowski (Roger Booth) rescues the robot Jedikiah from space, and in a different, and much better acted, form (Roger Bizley), it tries to get its revenge on the TPs. There's a nice idea in the Medusa - a plant like thing which can mute the TP's powers, and lots of running about. Overall it's not bad, but let down a little by Count Rabowski who comes over as more like one of Lost in Space's comedy aliens rather than a serious threat.  Much of the cast spend most of the time locked in little cells here, and Peter (Richard Speight), the other captured telepath, and one of the Time Guardians, is very effete in his open-to-the-navel shirt and britches. At the end Jedikiah is sent to Mercury in the distant past ... a point which becomes important later on ...

The final story of the season is 'The Vanishing Earth', and this plays with some more nice ideas, introducing Spidron (John Woodnutt) as the main alien threat, assisted by the easy on the eye Joy/Sandor (Nova Llewellyn). Spidron is very creepy indeed - masked in a sort of Klu-Klux-Klan mask and with tendrilly fingers. His voice is sibilant and John Woodnutt does a brilliant job of making him credible and scary.  Sandor however is good when she's pretending to be a girl at the funfair (in Clacton of all places) but when she gets into her space-leotard, she goes all posh and forgets how to act. Topping the guest cast though is Kevin Stoney as Steen, another telepath who has been hunting Spidron.

There's some great scenes in the ghost train house and in an old drain at the end, and some nice location work too.


So Season Two kicks off with the producers apparently realising that Kenny and Carol were useless and so had to go ... to be replaced with Elizabeth (Elizabeth Adare), who is much better. Poor Ginge and Lefty get edged out too, to be replaced by Chris (Chris Chittell). More to the point, why does everyone play a character with the same name as the actor!

The opening story 'The Blue and the Green' is perhaps the best in the entire run of The Tomorrow People. It's an original concept - that an alien can affect the mood of people and turn them against each other via a 'weather' painting which can look peaceful or stormy ... and the idea of giving out badges which cause the wearers to side against each other in irrational anger and violence is pretty good too. The only weak element in the story is the old grandfather, played in doddery form by Nigel Pegram. The alien boy, Robert (Jason Kemp) is both creepy and sympathetic, and the idea that they are 'seeds' which need the violent emotional outburst from humanity to send them out into the stars is an unexpected conclusion. We spotted a very young Pauline Quirk as one of the schoolkids, and apparently Linda Robson is there also!

Next up is 'A Rift in Time' which brings Peter back - this time he has been captured by a creepy Roman official, Gaius (Stanley Lebor) and made to fight in Gladiator school in the 1st Century BC. The story is the first to introduce the Time Guardians, and Zenon (Stephen Jack) who is Peter's father. I guess this is their equivalent to the Time Lords of Doctor Who, only far more Children's TV than Doctor Who ever was. Here it's all silver space-outfits and beards ...  There's an annoying pile of dialogue and explanation when they try to overcome all the logical issues: how will they speak and understand ancient Roman? How will Chris come with them as he's not a TP? How will they look like the natives?  All this is covered off and is very much a McGuffin ... even when the plot demands that they lose their TP powers, John notes that, strangely, they can still understand the language and so on ... it's all a little laughable watching them twist and turn and try to explain it all ...  It's lovely to see Sylvia Coleridge making a cameo as a Museum Vase expert!  She's just as delightful as in her Doctor Who appearance in 'The Seeds of Doom' a few years later.

The story has some interesting ideas to share about changing history, but at the end, it's all resolved fairly quickly. Peter is obviously in the show for his looks as his acting is not much better than his first appearance, but the main leads are pretty strong, and even though Stephen fluffs every other line, you can let it go as it seems to fit in with the show.

The final story of Season 2 is 'The Doomsday Men' and ... oh dear ... in a move which will become increasingly prevalent, the writer, Roger Price, seems to want to put his kid actors in kilts now ... and there's a cringe-worthy scene where they talk about the fact that nothing should be worn under the kilt!  It's all a little sado-masachistic with poor Stephen being kilted and then bound and left outside in the cold ... not sure what any of this has to do with the plot mind you ...

The story as a whole is lightweight - there's a space station orbiting Earth with lots of nukes on it ... and a group called The Doomsday Men want to gain control of it to hold Earth to ransom. Quite why getting Stephen into a Scottish school helps is uncertain ... and the whole thing shudders to a weak ending.


We kick off with yet another Tomorrow Person 'breaking out' - this is Tyso, and he is as annoying as I remember at the time. He speaks in a fast falsetto and is another of the 'pretty boy' kids they liked to cast in this show.

What's most interesting for me, is that episode two is the title sequence I recorded the audio for off the telly all those years ago as I liked the title music and was compiling a sort of 'mix tape' of them for my own pleasure. Others on the tape as I recall included The Zoo Gang and the Armchair Thriller episode 'Quiet as a Nun' ...

The first story is 'Secret Weapon' and introduces a character called Colonel Masters (Trevor Bannister). Now whether this is another nod to 'the Master' on Doctor Who I have no idea ... but Masters has a creepy female sidekick (Ann Curthoys) and a plan to capture the TPs and use them as a weapon. The willingness with with Stephen reveals all their number and secrets to Professor Cawston is amazing, and the whole thing trundles off into military espionage territory - so the same sort of ground as 'The Doomsday Men'.

Next up is 'Worlds Away', and this is where some silliness starts to creep in, although the ideas that the story is playing with are good. The Tomorrow People are visited by Timus, a rep from the Galactic Federation (played by Philip Gilbert, who also voices the computer, TIM). The TPs head to a pyramid on Earth wherein there's some old equipment left by Khultan aeons ago which suppresses their powers. This is disabled, but then they head off to the planet Pyrie which has the same problem - only current. There they meet Tikno - also played by Philip Gilbert - and they have to avoid the 'Veshtakers' - Vesh being what TPs are known as on Pyrie - and destroy the pyramid. It's all good fun, though why there is a pool of water in the dungeon is anyone's guess - just to get the kids all wet I suppose!  This is the first time that the series goes to an alien planet - it's a shame it looks like Earth!  And there's a young Keith Chegwin there as one of the Vesh outlaws.

'A Man for Emily' is next and ... oh dear oh dear. I really can't decide whether this is a work of genius, or it's just the most execrably bad thing ever shown on television. A spaceship arrives around Earth carrying three humanoids: The Momma (Margaret Burton), Emily (Sandra Dickinson) and Elmer (Peter Davison). These three characters overact and ham it up so badly that it's painful to watch. With crazy ideas like 'tickling boots' to keep Elmer in line, the unlikely 'Doozlum Pin' for transporting to Earth, and the fact that they eat their mates after mating, the story is a mess of ideas and tone - the comedy is pronounced, but they also kill a shopkeeper (who Stephen brings back to life using his 'special powers'), intend to eat John alive, and can destroy the Earth. The Momma wears a silver leotard (and she's a *large* lady) while Emily wears a Tee Shirt and pair of hotpants ... Elmer meanwhile dresses in what looks like a onesey when he's not in cowboy garb. There's a comedy chase with police being bothered by bees (which is even speeded up at one point!), Tyso and Stephen mug and laugh their way through, while it's only John and Elizabeth who take it in any way seriously. It's a mad, crazy, over the top, totally irredeemably rubbish set of episodes, which only make sense in the context of children's television, where hammy overacting and throwing of mashed potato is deemed funny and acceptable. This set of episodes is so out of kilter with the rest of the series to date, that it really stands out.

The other thing which is becoming apparent is that they have no idea what to do with Tyso - he's done nothing significant since joining at the start of the season ... You can understand why Kenny was written out - he did nothing too, but he was there at the start, when presumably the dynamic was not known and understood. The show can easily be carried (and is) by John, Elizabeth and Stephen, so it's a mystery why they wanted to add someone else.

The final story of the third season is 'The Return of Jedikiah' and it's a return to the earlier stories. The robot Jedikiah was apparently rescued from Mercury by the Khultan and used to replace an Egyptian Pharaoh ... but was then mummified and discovered in the present day by an archaeologist who Jedikiah promptly kills and takes the shape of ... it then pretends to be Stephen and teams up with a magician (Ali Bongo) on the television talent show Opportunity Knocks (not sure why) and then, in this runaround episode, pretends to be just about every other cast member - leading to lots of people not knowing who anyone is, and the audience getting bewildered trying to follow the plot which back-references just about everything! Colonel Masters is shot dead (without even showing his face), the telepath, Tricia, played by Ann Curthoys reappears, as does Cawston, as does Timus and Tikno, even the original overacting Jedikiah makes an appearance (Francis de Woolfe), there's references to Peter and Kenny, the Time Guardians ... it's all crammed in here ...

The most interesting thing to me here are the similarities to the Doctor Who story 'Pyramids of Mars' which also features an alien enemy trapped in a Pyramid who can take over people's minds and bodies. The opening of the two stories is almost identical - a group of locals, along with an archaeologist break into a tomb, there's a strange light and all the locals run off in terror. The archaeologist enters the tomb and is promptly attacked and killed by the entity within who then uses their body to escape. Both stories even feature animated Egyptian Mummies! The Tomorrow People episode was transmitted on May 7 1975, and the Doctor Who story wasn't shown until 25 October 1975 ... Closer checking reveals that the location filming for 'Pyramids of Mars' took place on 29 April and 2 May 1975, with studio recording for episode one taking place on 19 May - by which time the scripts would have been completed. So it's probably just a really spooky coincidence ...

It ends the season with the Tomorrow People being taken off the Earth to attend the Galactic Trig, and, apparently, was intended as an overall end to the series. It certainly finishes in a fairly definitive way, with the Earth control room being darkened, and the credits playing against that image rather than the usual 'lava lamp' graphics.


Another season, another new Tomorrow Person, and this time it's in the form of Pop Idol and drummer with the band Flintlock, Mike Holloway, playing Mike (where do they get the ideas for their names from!)  Mike gets involved with a Lord in the first story, 'One Law', and it's a simple affair really, with some running about, and another figure of authority in the form of the Policeman being made fun of as vain and incompetent, with some silly moments mixed in. Not really much to say about this. John Hollis plays a thug called Two Tone (he was also Sondergaard in the Doctor Who story 'The Mutants').

Next up is another good science fiction tale, 'Into the Unknown', where the TPs pick up a distress call from a rocket far out in space. They go to investigate and find a kid there Kwaan (Stephen Garlick). He is trying to get help (I think) for the FatherShip which is plunging into a strange hole in space. The commander is Tirayaan (Geoffrey Bayldon of Catweasel  fame) and the FatherShip has been taken over by sort of military thugs.  But it's not being drawn into the hole, it is being piloted there ... It's not bad this, but hampered by an episode of doing nothing but going through a wormhole, and an unexplained plot point of what actually happened to Mike at the start in the ship (he's apparently attacked by a statue but this is never referred to or has any relevance to anything else). I liked that the aliens spoke an alien language as well, but that the TPs could not translate it, and that they got cold even though they were wearing spacesuits (or Mike is anyway). This seems to be typical of the series that internal continuity is lost, forgotten or changed depending on how they feel. This is the first and only Tomorrow People story not to be written by Roger Price.

And that's it for the season ... two stories! 


As usual we kick off with the hunt for another TP, this time a Russian spy called Pavla (played with a perfect English accent by Anulka Dziubinska who, I notice, also appeared in the horror film Vampyres!). 'The Dirtiest Business' is a strange story, very bleak and ending with something of a hardcore shock for the series as Pavla, who has had a bomb implanted in her, dies jumping from a window to save Mike's life. Not a happy ending at all!  Most strange here is that Stephen and Tyso are just not in it. Not even mentioned. I think that's a bit off to be honest - especially for poor Stephen who has been there from the start!

Following this we have 'A Much Needed Holiday' which is something of a strange piece where the TPs head for another planet for a holiday only to get embroiled in child slavery ... the kids are awful, the costumes fetishistic and the whole thing is just strange. And when two of the local kids are called Trig and Trog, you know they're just not taking it seriously! Interesting to me (at least) was that the aliens are called the Klepton - a name from the Doctor Who comics!

Finally we have 'Heart of Sogguth', a very silly story where a bunch of devil worshippers have an African drum and intent to take over the world and release a Demon from hell. It's all just daft, with Mike Holloway's real life pop group Flintlock making an appearance, and a camp and unbelievable 'manager' called Jake heading the plot to gain control of everyone except Elizabeth - even John gets affected!  There's an interesting sequence where a possessed John and Elizabeth have a stun-gun fight in the TV studio, and I felt there were shades of the Doctor Who story 'The Deadly Assassin' in Liz trying to destroy the Drum ('Assassin' was shown in Oct/Nov 1976, so 4 months beforehand) and in 'Talons of Weng-Chiang' for the studio fight (shown in Feb/Mar 1977, so just before transmission of this).

The series is now descending into the two-part format which typifies it's latter seasons, and the stories are just no good. There's no sense of purpose or of the show even taking itself seriously, and to be honest, the bleak horror of 'The Dirtiest Business' doesn't sit well with the childrens' television sensibility that the show is developing and increasingly moving towards.


Predictably, in 'The Lost Gods' we have another TP to find, and this time she's a Chinese girl, Hsui Tai (Misako Koba) who is to be sacrificed so she can be reborn in another baby - horrific undertones once more. However she really can't act and looks a lot like Fu Manchu's daughter Lin Tang (played by Tsai Chin) in the Christopher Lee films  For no good reason Liz is now offworld somewhere and out of the show - at least we get to see her on a screen and know that she has gone rather than poor Stephen and Tyso. And for no good reason John is teaching Mike to fly a glider ... It's got Bert Kwouk though so it can't be all bad. Unfortunately the classic TP underground base has been replaced with a really awful looking studio set, and the jaunting belts are now watches ... it's all going to the dogs!

'Hitler's Last Secret' sounds awful, but the story is not too bad. Michael Sheard plays Hitler, preserved in a cryogenic pod -m except Hitler is actually an alien. One of the Hitler Youth is played by Nicholas Lyndhurst off of Only Fools and Horses, and overall it's not bad. It again makes use of the theme of kids being taken over/possessed (aka 'The Blue and the Green' and 'Heart of Shoggoth') and Mike is of course the only one affected. Generally these two episode stories don't work - they are too short to develop anything and often end very abruptly.

The final story is 'The Thargon Menace' and this plumbs new depths with the most rubbish puppet robots ever seen on television, and with stupid Kids' TV character voices to boot. I wonder which meeting they were in when they agreed that these things (called 'Thing') were a good idea and good enough to show on Telly.  The plot revolves around a couple of kids who have escaped from Thargon justice ... Flyn (Michael Audreson) and Sula (Jackie Cowper) are terribly acted and barely believable ... and there's a Tin Pot Dictator too in the form of Papa Minn (Olu Jacobs)!

With each story you think it can't get any worse ... and with 'The Thargon Menace' it really hits rock bottom ... or does it!  These tales make 'A Man for Emily' look like Shakespeare!


'Castle of Fear' kicks off a new season with, yes you guessed it, another new Tomorrow Person. This is Andrew Forbes, a 13 year old Scottish lad who is creating ghosts at his father's Loch Ness hotel ... it's not a bad little story to be honest, nicely done, and with the main weak point being when Andrew and the other TPs stage a battle of imaginary Highlanders and Redcoats in the grounds. There's still nothing for Hsui Tai to do, and Elizabeth is now back with no explanations. Nigel Rhodes as Andrew is pretty good for his age and the tale doesn't outstay it's welcome.

Next up is 'Achilles Heel', another space adventure where a couple of aliens wanting to mine something called barlumin on Earth arrive in a ship and check in at Andrew's hotel (convenient). The barlumin removes the powers from TPs which is why the aliens want it, but they are kids' TV silly with malfunctioning translators and misunderstanding clothing and umbrellas. It all gets even dafter when all the TPs end up on the ship with their dog-faced pilot, and all have their powers removed. It's down to Andrew and his dagger to rescue the day!  I *think* the spaceship used here might be one from the Doctor Who story 'Frontier in Space' ... and one of the two aliens is played by Hilary Minster (General Klinkenhoffer from 'allo 'allo).

Finally we have 'The Living Skins' and in a bound, The Tomorrow People is back to doing what it does best - Earth-set adventures with creepy aliens and good ideas.  The idea is a retread of previous stories - teen fashion takes over the teens - so we're in 'The Blue and the Green', 'Heart of Soggoth' and 'Hitler's Last Secret' territory again, but it's well done, and the director even manages to make a bunch of orange inflatables look scary!  There's a very dodgy shot of Mike Holloway in his pants ... and the idea of John's cold defeating the aliens is taken from War of the Worlds but never mind. The idea of plasticky fashion jumpsuits being the spearhead of an alien invasion harks back to Doctor Who's Autons, and overall it's a good end to the season.


This season is an adventure long piece, with 'War of the Empires' taking up the whole thing. The Thargons are back - all gold this time and thankfully without a Thing computer/robot in evidence now - and they are at war with the Sorsons who look like mobile Aztec columns (they're also sort of Daleky in a way) and have silly comedy alien voices. They decide to use Earth as a base, so the TPs have to try and stop them. There's some nice stuff with Elizabeth and Timus at the Galactic Trig where we discover that the council members are a bunch of duvet-monsters with felt pieces sewn on - the sort of things that a bunch of pre-schoolers might create at playgroup one morning. Such a laughable shame - consider what Doctor Who managed some ten years earlier in 'The Daleks' Master Plan' story with the alien delegates shown there - they were imaginative both visually and audibly, whereas The Tomorrow People go for the bargain basement alien look.

The plot rambles a bit and it's very talky, but it's a sort of intelligent look at an intergalactic war and what the diplomacy might end up looking like. However for kids used to comedy aliens, bumbling policemen and hideous teen fashion, it might all be a little too po-faced.

I spotted musical cues from Doctor Who's 'Inferno' in this one too. Oh, and the Y-wing fighters (models by Martin Bower) look very Star Wars to my untrained eye. I guess that this significant and influential film is impacting on The Tomorrow People as it did with Doctor Who.


So we got to the end of the viewing, and I have to say that on balance I was pleasantly surprised. I had remembered much of the latter seasons as being unwatchable drivel, and while there are some real klunkers there, and some design and voice decisions which drag the whole thing down, overall it manages to maintain its head above water.

I think part of the problem is that the earlier stories are a) longer and b) better, so that they stick in the memory more than the latter ones. The first three seasons are pretty good ('A Man for Emily' excepted) but once we get further than this, the plots become sparce and patchy, and one wonders what Roger Price was doing all year if this was the best he could come up with for his series. The show is further hampered by some dreadful casting decisions for the leads. Nicholas Young as John is a rock throughout, a brilliant performance and very believable. Next best is Liz Adare as Elizabeth, who manages to do well despite leaving for a season to have a baby. Poor Peter Vaughan-Clark as Stephen though - excellent in the role, but dropped with no further mention of him having ever been there!  But the others ... Kenny was unfortunately poor from the start; Tyso was just annoying; with Hsui Tai ... of all the Chinese actresses available in the UK at the time, they manage to pick and cast one who can't actually speak English!  Her acting is forced and unnatural and because she is apparently speaking the words from the script phonetically (they wrote them out for her), her delivery is often hard to understand ... Andrew at the end is bearable, but like all of the non-lead TPs, they are constantly sidelined and left at the lab while John/Stephen/Liz/Mike go off and have all the fun. It's as though they thought they needed the characters there for some reason, but then had no idea what to do with them.

The show is also a strange mix of extreme Children's television with daft puppets, forced comedy voices, incompetent, bumbling police, traffic wardens and officials of all types ... but then you get some very creepy horror with young girls being walking bombs (who then die!), lots of threat and violence, and body/psychological horror of loss of identity and mind ...  it's like the show didn't really know what it wanted to be all along.

I'm so glad to revisit it though - it's been a pleasure. And now that it's being re-worked again for a 2013 audience, maybe it will manage to find the narrative consistency and drive again and deliver thrills and excitement as a whole new generation of Tomorrow People 'break out' and start to Jaunt once more.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Benton ... Daleks ... Master

Just a normal day at the office for me ... listening to some of the excellent Big Finish CDs in the car on long journeys ... here's a round up of some recent offerings, and some thoughts on each.

First off Council of War is the first Companions Chronicles release to feature the vocal talents of John Levene as Sergeant Benton. It's an interesting story, but one which for me is slightly unbelievable as 'fitting in' where the authors claim it fits. Benton is off doing some covert surveillance for UNIT, investigating some disappearances in the town of Kettering. Benton is portrayed here as some sort of ertzaz James Bond figure, and in my world of the third Doctor, this was never the case. He's not a dashing hero, he's a trusty sidekick ... but that aside, Levene does a good job with the material. I did wince a little at some of the asides from Margery Phipps about his manliness and so on, but perhaps this is meant as local colour ... Sinead Keenan (the female werewolf off of Being Human and the female alien with a green conker head from Doctor Who) does an excellent job of bringing Phipps to life ... her reading is clear and effective and complements Levene's male tones well.  The story is unfortunately a little forgettable and silly, with aliens in the far future kidnapping Phipps because she wrote a book that they based their entire culture on (of peace) and then when they get invaded, they have no way of defending themselves. Thus they blame Phipps and put her on trial!  It's just daft.

Next up is The Final Phase, one of the Tom Baker/Mary Tamm series of audios. I've not listened to all of these, and on this one I felt I was missing something. It seems to be a return appearance from David Warner as Cuthbert, a character who has joined forces with the Daleks. Warner is brilliant here, managing to toe a line between serious threat and incompetence as he realises that the Daleks he hired as a security force (what was he thinking?) actually have their own agenda and are after a sort of wormhole thing he has found in space. I liked the stylings of this, and the music is very Dudley Simpson from 'Genesis of the Daleks'. I did have a small problem with Tamm's voice, as she doesn't sound terribly like she did in the show, and Tom Baker too is perhaps playing it all with too much flippancy than would perhaps have been the case ... but then some of this is down to the script and the dialogue the character is given. It was an entertaining listen, but I did start to get bored the 100th time someone asked Cuthbert to explain his plan, and he found another reason not to ...  The Dalek voices are, as usual, excellent, and generally the sound design and production is top notch - but then Big Finish have a lot of experience of doing these things now.

Finally, another Companion Chronicle, Mastermind which features Geoffrey Beevers as the Master, along with Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso as a couple of UNIT (I think) operatives who are keeping the Master's body in a mysterious vault.  I really enjoyed this tale, it works perfectly in the medium, and does not overstay it's welcome. It's also got some lovely twists and turns in it, some excellent audio effects, and a nice, satisfying ending, all of which works within the concepts that the author (Jonathan Morris, contributing what seems to be his 26th CD for Big Finish's main Who ranges) is playing with. Beevers is brilliant as the Master, his voice moving from pitiful wheedling to powerful control as the play progresses, and I liked the time travel elements which were introduced as well. Overall this is the best of the three, a great, cracking adventure, and one which would actually work really well as a film - just three cast, limited sets, and lots of great ideas and sparkling dialogue.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Doctor Who: The Name of the Doctor

Apologies for the long wait for this one ... it's just been such a hectic year and time to sit and pen thoughts has been limited. But here we are with some thoughts about the Doctor Who season finale for this year, 'The Name of the Doctor'.

There was so much hype around this episode, from the unexpected early release of the episode in America, to people discussing and wondering what the title meant ... and as usual these days I was pretty unexcited by it all. As I said in some blog post or Facebook status, the show for me has never been about the Doctor, and his name is monumentally unimportant in the wider scheme of the show ... so I couldn't see what all the fuss was about. Of course, as it turned out, the title is misleading anyway and isn't about what the Doctor's name is in the first place (and I guessed this too - too many years of Steven Moffat's blindsiding to be honest).

So I came to the episode not really knowing what to expect. I had my own theory that Clara was the TARDIS as that sort of seemed to explain a lot of things ... but I was wrong on that too.

The opening sequence was excellent, very fannish, and very suitable for a fiftieth anniversary show ... Clara is integrated into old footage, and interacts with the first Doctor as he steals the TARDIS ... lots of clips of other Doctors too ... and we learn that she is the impossible girl, born to save the Doctor. This really is a magnificent sequence - so good that it's repeated - with some variations - later on in the episode.

This leads into the story proper, but as usual it's a bit of a mishmash of ideas and things which aren't explained and don't make much sense ... but you just have to go with them. There's a prisoner - Clarence DeMarco - killer of 14 women, locked in a prison on Earth in 1893. But somehow he knows of the Doctor, of his secret, and the space-time coordinates to the planet Trenzalore which is where the Doctor's grave is. There's much made of this ... the Doctor even breaks down and cries at one point - this is the place he must never, ever visit (why he should never visit is not explained, nothing really seems to happen when he does).

Madame Vastra and Jenny decide to set up a 'conference call' through time and space and bring themselves, Strax (who is in Glasgow on a fighting holiday or something), Clara (by means of a letter sent to her containing a sleeping potion) and River Song (yawn) together to discuss the problem. While they are all sleeping, the Great Intelligence in the form of Dr Simeon arrives at their Victorian house with some creepy suited monster things (Whispermen) and kill Jenny. He tells them that the Doctor must go to Trenzalore.

The Doctor finds Clara and realises that he has to go to Trenzalore to save his friends breaking into his own tomb. How he knows this I have no idea ... but it's all good drama. The TARDIS doesn't want to go though and so the Doctor forces it down to the planet, which is all a creepy graveyard place for some reason. The Doctor's tomb has the TARDIS over it ... very impressive ... Then there's a pile of stuff with River Song's ghost which the Doctor can't see but Clara can ... and a fake tombstone for River there (which can't exist). The Whispermen attack so the Doctor and Clara fall through the grave into some underground tunnels.

Meanwhile Vastra, Jenny and Strax arrive by the tomb and Strax brings Jenny back to life with an electro cardio restart ... and then the Great Intelligence and the Whispermen attack again ...

This is all a little bit like 'The Five Doctors' now ... with various parties approaching the Doctor's Tomb/Dark Tower from below and above ... and they have to break in to get something undetermined.

But to open the tomb, the Doctor's name must be spoken ... and despite that Clara and the Doctor ascended through the basement areas of the TARDIS, they arrive outside it ... not sure about that. But anyway, the ghost of River speaks the Doctor's name and the doors open.

Inside the TARDIS, instead of the console, there's a flicker light thing which is apparently the tracks of all the Doctor's travels ... again not sure why. If the Doctor is dead and this is his tomb, then why is this light thing there?  Is it there for all Time Lords in their tombs? In which case why aren't more evil monsters and villains tracking down the tombs of dead Time Lords and then infiltrating their timelines like the Great Intelligence wants to do with the Doctor's

The Doctor collapses as the paradox of his being there is too much, or that he doesn't understand the script.  The Great Intelligence intends to infiltrate the Doctor's timestream and rewrite history so that he loses all his battles - the Doctor dies in all his incarnations ... but Clara realises that she can stop the GI ... time changes and Jenny vanishes, Strax is no longer friendly ... so Clara steps into the Doctor's timeline and starts to correct it all back again - everyone is restored ... except Clara.

Now these are all very nice ideas, but really make no sense at all! If none of this happened until Clara entered the Doctor's timestream, then why was she in 'Asylym of the Daleks'?  That hadn't happened yet!  And if she was in the Doctor's timestream all along, then why didn't he remember her as the strange girl who told him which TARDIS to steal from Gallifrey in the first place?  That's the problem with timey wimey stuff ... it needs to make a little more sense to really work ... and leaving it all hanging like this tends not to be too satisfying.

As I said, though, you have to just go with it.

The Doctor then decides he has to save Clara ... but before that he explains that he has always been able to see River - he was afraid that admitting that she was there would hurt him too much ... and she was a ghost because he had never said goodbye properly. What rot. And to cap it all he snogs her ... Oh dear.  This all makes no sense at all ...and so, probably to escape all the confusion in the plot, the Doctor steps into his own timestream. Not sure to do what though? To help Clara put right all the GI's meddling? To stop the GI? Or just to rescue Clara? How would he even know where she was? She was splintered throughout his timeline ... so who is the 'real' one anyway?

He finds Clara on the set of an episode of 'Lost in Space', smoky and surrounded by fake rocks. Echoes of the Doctor run past her (no idea why but it's a nice image). The Doctor sends her a leaf - her memory leaf - and she lets him save her.

Up to this point, despite all the incongruities in the plot, the sappish snogging and silly angst, the non-plots of the Whispermen (Who or what are they? Why are they there?), Jenny's death only to be resurrected by a Sontaran with a portable electro shock machine, and the whole Doctor must never go to Trenzalore thing, not to mention how this prisoner at the start was the only one who knew all about it ... despite all this, it's been a good, exciting watch. It rattles along, the visuals are great, and it does all sort of make some sort of sense as long as you don't think about it too long.

But we're all scratching our heads and wondering what 'The Name of the Doctor' has to do with anything ... but wait ... there's another man on the set of 'Lost in Space' with Clara and the 11th Doctor, someone that she has not seen before ... but everyone there is the Doctor ... so who is this? And why isn't he one of the incarnations that she recognises (given that she was integrated into the Doctor's entire timeline - and thus presumably knows all the future incarnations of the Doctor as well as the 11th and the previous 10 - I guess this means she knows all about the Valeyard too)?

Ah ... this is the one who broke the promise. What promise? He is the Doctor's secret. How can you have a secret from someone who has just accessed your entire timeline? In the name of peace and sanctity - but not in the name of the Doctor ...  apparently, as some captions on the screen inform us ... John Hurt as The Doctor ...

And we scratch our heads and say 'What?'


The last minutes or so really let the whole thing down. It makes no sense.  Obviously I appreciate that it's a lead in to the 50th anniversary special (or whatever they are doing) but it's so ham fisted (bun vendor) and awkward. It's meant to be all oooh and aaah but ends up being just rubbish and puzzling.

And now we have to wait until November to learn what on earth it is all about.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Spearhead from Space on Blu-Ray

I have long thought that the 1970 Doctor Who story 'Spearhead from Space', which introduced us to Jon Pertwee as the third Doctor, would be an ideal candidate for the 'Hi Def' experience. Unlike any other Who, it was all shot on film (rather than videotape) and so had the potential for remastering to give a better picture.  So I was rather delighted when it was announced that it would be released in the Blu Ray format, and remastered along the way too.

I was less impressed when I heard that 2Entertain had allocated next to no funds to actually do the remastering though, and this may be the source of my main (if minor) complaint about the story itself.

Seeing it in sharp and clear colour on the telly was magnificent indeed. And there's a little comparison documentary on the disk showing the different versions of the story, from VHS to DVD, to remastered DVD to this new Hi Def version.  I liked how filmic it all seemed, and the country colours of episode one, to the grey, waxy skin of the auton humans seemed new and fresh.

My main concern with the presentation, and it is picky indeed, is that in two scenes, there is what seem to be fluff or something in the film gate at the top of the frame. These are shots between Hibbert and Ransom in Hibbert's office in part two, and in the final scenes between the Doctor and Channing in part 4. Given the level of technology we have available, I'm not sure why these marks weren't digitally removed - even doing it frame by frame should be possible these days given the amazing work done by Stuart Humpreyes on the recent 'The Mind of Evil' release.

As I say, it's a small thing, but when you are promoting your release as being in Hi Def on Blu Ray, and digitally restored and remastered, this just looks like shoddy work.

The release has few extras on it. There's the aforementioned piece on the restoration; a 'coming soon' on the Pertwee story 'The Green Death' which just tries way too hard to make it look punchy and exciting - and all those fade to blacks render it almost unwatchable!  Seeing trailers for Classic Who done in the style of modern blockbusters was amusing at first, but now it just grates. It also perhaps raises false expectations in the minds of those who have not seen the story as to what it might be like.

The main two documentaries included on the disk are a piece on Jon Pertwee; and one on Caroline John.

The Caroline John Documentary, Carry On, is really good. It covers John's life through interviews with her husband, daughter and best friends and you really get a sense of the person that Carrie was. I liked the lady immensely ... I think if we'd spent more time together then we would have really got on. She was kind and funny and always laughing, and this comes over well in the documentary. I have to admit that I cried a little at the section where her family were explaining how she came to do her first ever convention - and they even had the video footage of exactly what was being explained. And so we could see the cheers and applause as she made her entrance to a packed room of fans, and realised that they all loved her and that her performance in Doctor Who had been something special. It's a shame that John Molyneux, who got her to attend, and who conducted the on-stage interview we see clips from in the documentary, was not credited. But it's a great piece overall, and good insight into the lady.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the Jon Pertwee Documentary, A Dandy and a Clown - which is strange as it's from the same Director. This covers Jon's life, but his family are conspicuous by their absence, and it's left to about half a dozen showbiz pals, and one long-time friend, to reminisce about Jon, interspersed with some interview clips of him on shows like Wogan. Generally this is a very superficial look at Jon's life and career. Something of a wasted opportunity really. I assume that this is the documentary that I was contacted about some months back, where the Director wanted all my help, photographs, audiotapes and whatever about Jon, without paying a research fee or involving me in any way in the documentary (I declined), and for which he admitted extensively using the book I penned with Jon, I Am The Doctor, for reference (no credit was given to the book as a reference source at the end). This may be why I feel a little ambivalent about this piece ... so apologies for that.  It's nicely presented though, and I liked the idea of a timeline unfolding and the steps along the way being represented by photographs and clips - and there's lots of pictures here which I hadn't seen before, so kudos to whoever did the picture research.

Overall this is a lovely package. A chance to see some classic Doctor Who in tip top condition, and with a couple of Documentaries thrown in.  I'd have loved to have seen an isolated music track included, and more effort made to source interesting additional features, but I understand that the budget allocated to this release was minimal, and therefore they had to go with what they could get. It's still a shame though, given how much money these releases make for 2Entertain and the BBC, that they can't spend a little more and get a much better end product as a result.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Lakeland Bakeware

Every so often a new range of Doctor Who inspired goodies comes along which gets you all excited and enthusiastic. Lakeland, long one of the best places to go if you wanted cookware or kitchen items, utensils and products which were a) different and b) actually worked, now has a large range of Who themed items available, all at pretty good and keen prices too.

The lovely people there kindly sent me some of them to have a look at, and so here's some thoughts and comments on them!

First off is a trio of items for baking and displaying cupcakes!  What I really like about most Who merchandise is the care and thought that goes into the packaging - the bit that most people throw away! Thus with the Cupcake Kit, it comes in a nice little cardboard TARDIS ... but there's more. The TARDIS has opening doors which reveal the innards, protected by a clear sheet of plastic.

There are two sets of 12 cupcake baking cases: one with the words YOU ARE AN ENEMY OF THE DALEKS written around it, and the other with BIGGER ON THE INSIDE, These are held in a silver card inner which also has four sets of six items each little wooden sticks with cardboard cut out photographs on the top. There's K9, a Gold Dalek, the TARDIS and the eleventh Doctor. It's a shame that these are only one-sided, meaning that you can only see the image from one side only. The aforementioned silver card inner, also has very subtle images of the TARDIS printed on both sides.

It's a lovely little set, put together with a lot of care and attention.

The other cupcake decoration set contains 24 cake wraps and 24 toppers - but these are Daleks! The pack contains wraps in differing colours for four of the new Paradym Daleks from the show: Red, Blue, White and Orange. The wrap is a simple card sleeve which sits around the base of the cake, and the topper is a 2-dimensional card image of a Dalek's 'head' which has a pointed card bottom and thus just sticks in the top of the cake. It's a shame perhaps that these weren't moulded from 3-d plastic, but from a single angle the cakes look pretty good.

The packaging here is a simple flatpack containing the wraps and toppers. The photographic imagery is nice though.

The final cupcake related piece is magnificent!  This is a large Dalek Cake Stand, which stands around a foot and a half tall!  The pieces to assemble it come flatpacked, and in true Ikea style, you have to push the various elements together to create a 3-D Dalek stand, with three levels of surfaces on which to place your Doctor Who cupcakes!  I guess it could also be used to display other things too, like little figures or models, or anything which fits!

It is a 2-D, 3-D model though and so elements like the eyestalk, and gun/sucker arms are actually flat cardboard, but it does the job in suggesting a Dalek quite well. The eyestalk even moves up and down, and the arms are likewise pivoted to move from side to side. It's a wonderful idea, and is pretty well executed too. Great for a Who themed party! And a bargain at only £7.99!

And if you're planning a party, you need a cake, and so Lakeland are to be congratulated on bringing out a proper Dalek cake mould!  No more trying to construct a Dalek from swiss rolls and icing, this silicon cake mould will turn out a perfect Dalek shape every time (of course subject to cake mix and cooking temperatures and conditions!)  It comes in a nice box with a die-cut Dalek shape in the front revealing the silicon mould in the box and images of a cake made from the very product.  I'm not sure how the cake can be made so that the balls, slats and head pieces come out a different colour from the body mind ... maybe you have to be clever and use two different mixes or something? Or maybe it just happens by the way the cake bakes in the mould?

As mentioned, Lakeland have a wide selection of items available, and here's the full list:

24 Dalek Cupcake Wraps & Toppers, Ref 18029, £9.99
TARDIS Cupcake Kit, Ref 18030, £9.99
Cake Decorating Kit, Ref 18028, £4.99
Cake Pan, Ref 18037, £12.99
6-Piece Dusting Set, Ref 18034, £3.49
TARDIS Chocolate Mould, Ref 18035, £4.99
Dalek Cake Mould, Ref 18036, £16.99
50 Dalek Cupcake Cases, Ref 18027, £2.99
Dalek Cake Stand, Ref 18026, £7.99
Cookie Cutters, £4.99 Each set
20 Napkins, Ref 18032, £2.99
12 Paper Plates, Ref 18031, £3.99
Garland, Ref 18033, £6.99
Ice Cube Tray, Ref 18039, £4.99
24 Straws, Ref 18024, £2.99

Available for sale from: