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Doctor Who: Stones of Blood (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Stones of Blood originally aired in 1978. It was the third part of The Key to Time saga.

Doctor, might I ask you  a personal question?

Well, I don’t see how I could stop you from asking.

Are you from outer space?

No.

Oh.

I’m more from you’d call inner time.

Ah.

– Professor Rumford and the Doctor clarify things

Stones of Blood was a bit of a landmark for the television show. Not only was it the 100th Doctor Who story broadcast, but it also aired remarkably close to the show’s fifteenth anniversary. The Three Doctorshad demonstrated that the show could celebrate its anniversaries in style, but producer Graham Williams seemed to want a more restrained celebration of the show’s run – vetoing an early scene in the TARDIS where Romana and K-9 give the Doctor a birthday cake and a present (a new scarf). Instead, it was decided that the show would celebrate its time on the air by returning to two of its more defining genres, blending those two distinct types of story into one four-part adventure. So we end up with a story that is half gothic horror and half outer space adventure.

A celebration, out of the blue!

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Doctor Who: Invasion of the Dinosaurs (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs originally aired in 1974.

How are you feeling now?

Hungry, tired and I’ve got a headache.

– Mark asks Sarah Jane how her viewing went. I can empathise.

Ah, ambition. It’s hard to fault it… although there is a point where you simply have to. Invasion of the Dinosaurs crosses that line in the first episode. I know that Doctor Who is a BBC television serial. I understand that the classic series hardly had a huge amount of money to hand when it needed special effects. I am well aware that the special effects for the following season’s The Ark in Space amount to some bubblewrap and green paint. There is an art to watching many of these classic stories, and that art involves being wilfully blind to the fact that the special effects aren’t up to scratch. Beyond that, it’s arbitrary. There’ll always be one silly special effect that undermines an otherwise impressive episode – which special effect and which episode will vary from person to person.

However, Invasion of the Dinosaurs makes the special effects the whole point of the exercise. The title tells you that you should be watching the dinosaurs. Malcolm Hulke was given the brief to write a story about dinosaurs in contemporary London. There might be a plot underneath it all, but the serial expects that you are here for the dinosaurs. And, if you are…

I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

A smashing time...

A smashing time…

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Doctor Who: The Ark in Space (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Arc in Space originally aired in 1975.

I’ll have to link in my own cerebral cortex. That’s the only thing.

That is highly dangerous.

I know. Two more leads, Rogin.

The power could burn out a living brain!

I agree. An ordinary brain. But mine is exceptional.

– the Doctor demonstrates his tremendous ego to Vira

It really is amazing how quickly Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes established their mark on Doctor Who. Barry Letts finished up his time as producer working on Tom Baker’s first serial, Robot. The Ark in Space was the second adventure to star the Fourth Doctor, and certainly a lot more indicative of the shape of things to come. While you could argue that Holmes and Hinchcliffe did improved over the following years – for one thing, this first season still has the odd pothole – it is clear that they immediately knew what they were doing.

Hinchcliffe and Holmes would cast a tremendous shadow over Doctor Who, and it’s no coincidence that so much of that influence can be traced back to The Ark in Space, the first indication of their plan for Doctor Who.

The Wirrn really bug the Doctor...

The Wirrn really bug the Doctor…

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Doctor Who: Revenge of the Cybermen (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Revenge of the Cybermen originally aired in 1975.

Then what is it? You’ve no home planet, no influence, nothing. You’re just a pathetic bunch of tin soldiers skulking about the galaxy in an ancient spaceship.

– the Doctor pretty much sums it up

To be fair, the title should the first clue that something is not quite right here.

Tom Baker’s first season of Doctor Who contains two genuine classics in the form of Genesis of the Daleks and The Ark in Space, along with the quite good Sontaran Experiment, but it was bookended by two absolute clunkers. Indeed, Revenge of the Cybermen and Robot both feel like holdovers from the Barry Letts era of the show, and they’d both probably seem a whole lot more entertaining as vehicles for Jon Pertwee rather than Tom Baker.

Sadly, we’ve got what we’ve got, so let’s just try to work through this.

Sadly it's A bomb, not THE bomb...

Sadly it’s A bomb, not THE bomb…

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Doctor Who: The Infinite Quest (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Infinite Quest was originally broadcast in weekly instalments on Totally Doctor Who in 2007.

… And then I’ll have my revenge! Revenge! REVENGE!

– just in case you didn’t get that Baltazar was evil

The Infinite Quest is a 45-minute animated episode of Doctor Who that was broadcast as part of Totally Doctor Who in 2007, during the third season of the revived show. It was written by Alan Barnes, who has written a number of Big Finish audio plays for Doctor Who, and was directed by Gary Russell. The animation was produced by Cosgrave Hall, who animated the missing episodes of The Invasion for its 2006 DVD release. So there’s a fairly considerable amount of talent involved in this project, which is notable as not only the first full-length animated Doctor Who episode to be broadcast on television, but is the first fully serialised story to be told since the show was revived. It was originally broadcast in chunks of three-and-a-half minutes.

Flight of fancy...

Flight of fancy…

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