Advertisements
    Advertisements
  • Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

  • Advertisements

Doctor Who: The Sea Devils (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 Sea Devils originally aired in 1973.

If Horatio Nelson had been in charge of this operation, I hardly think that he would have waited for official instructions.

Yes, a pretty impulsive fellow, if one can believe the history books.

History books? Captain Hart, Horatio Nelson was a personal friend of mine. Come on, Jo.

– Namedropping? The Doctor? Never!

When it comes to Doctor Who, “sequel” stories get a bit of a hard time from fandom. It seems to be easy to dismiss Snakedance in favour of Kinda, and to praise Spearhead from Space at the expense of Terrors of the Autons and even elevate The Daleks above The Dalek Invasion of Earth. It seems that time, and conventional wisdom, tend to favour the original serials. Of course, there are undoubtedly examples where follow-up scripts have disappointed (the ridiculously padded The Monster of Peladon following The Curse of Peladon). Still, for my money, The Sea Devils represents a tighter, complimentary and ambitious sequel to Doctor Who and the Silurians, easily one of the most highly regarded adventures of the seventies. It’s a fairly impressive accomplishment, but The Sea Devils is more than up to it.

Everybody out of the water!

Continue reading

Advertisements

Doctor Who: And the Silurians (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.

And the Silurians originally aired in 1970.

Doctor Who and the Silurians always struck me as a very strange episode title. I know that some of the spin-off media, like the books, have a habit of titles like “Doctor Who and the [title]”, but it really feels strange to have an episode title like that. Perhaps it’s because it seems to suggest the character’s name is actually “Doctor Who”, or perhaps it’s my internal OCD flying out of whack, finding it very strange that there’s only one televised episode to use that particular naming convention. Still, all of this debate about naming conventions aside, there’s no denying that The Siluriansstands as one of the highlights of Pertwee’s era, a fitting instalment in a superb first season that proved there was more to science-fiction than strange monsters each and every week.

The Doctor attempts to take the matter in hand...

Continue reading

Doctor Who: Frontier 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.

Frontier in Space originally aired in 1973.

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the show, the four-part serial The Three Doctors was produced. However, it was also decided that Jon Pertwee’s fourth season in the role should also contain something quite a bit grander than the average Doctor Who serial. Clearly intended to rival the epic (and lost) Daleks’ Master Plan in terms of scale and scope, an epic twelve-part adventure was conceived that would run across two back-to-back serials. It would open with Frontier in Space, before easing gently into Terry Nation’s Planet of the Daleks.

Unfortunately the adventure was never quite able to measure up to the series’ earlier Dalek epic, primarily due to problems with the second serial. Still, though somewhat weakened by the necessity to dovetail into the story directly following, Frontier in Space remains a rather wonderful example of the series on its largest scale, offering epic space opera with large-scale consequences.

Lost in space…

Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

Doctor Who: Colony 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.

Colony in Space originally aired in 1971.

Are you some kind of scientist?

I’m every kind of scientist.

– Caldwell and the Doctor

Colony in Space is an interesting story for many reasons. For one thing, it’s the first colour adventure to travel to another world. It was the first time since Jon Pertwee took over the title role that the character had been allowed to leave the surroundings of modern-day Earth. Even if he did land in a quarry. Colony in Space demonstrated the possibilities to tell futuristic and extraterrestrial stories in the new and remodelled version of Doctor Who, and the show began to slowly venture further and further afield over the next few years, with the Doctor finally regaining control of his TARDIS in The Three Doctors a little under two years later.

However, Colony in Space is also interesting because it is a script from Malcolm Hulke, who has really become one of the more Doctor Who script writers more inclined to pepper his scripts with political and moral philosophy. Colony in Space is an interesting exploration of those themes, even if it does run a little bit long in places. (That said, Hulke is one of the better writers of the six-part format in the show’s history.)

Go on, try to fight the urge to pronounce the episode title like "colony... IN SPACE!"

Go on, try to fight the urge to pronounce the episode title like “colony… IN SPACE!”

Continue reading

Doctor Who: Shada (2003) (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.

Shada originally broadcast on the BBC website in 2003.

Doctor, a fool would realise that it was written in code!

Skagra, this thing is written in code!

– Skagra and the Doctor have some communication difficulties

Has a failed Doctor Who story every haunted the collective consciousness in the way that Shada does? There’s a wealth of adventures that were proposed and never produced, from the last Master story that never happened in The Final Game, through to the laundry list of unproduced adventures that would have made up Colin Baker’s second season if the show hadn’t been parked by the BBC. However, Shada is something different. So different, in fact, that it has been told quite a few times. In fact, it might be the only Doctor Who story I end up covering twice.

This was a webcast version, a very simply animated version of the tale produced for the BBC website, using an audio play adapted from Douglas Adams’ original script by Big Finish, the fan collective who produce a range of celebrated audio plays for the classic series. Starring Paul McGann, the Eighth Doctor who never really got a chance to develop the role in live action, it’s an interesting glimpse at what might have been.

Lost in time...

Lost in time…

Continue reading

Doctor Who: The War Games (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 War Games originally aired in 1969.

Well, what was happening? Why was it so difficult to move?

It was the Time Lords.

But they’re your own people, aren’t they, Doctor?

Yes, that’s right.

Why did you run away from them in the first place?

What? Well, I was bored.

What do you mean, you were bored?

Well, the Time Lords are an immensely civilised race. We can control our own environment, we can live forever, barring accidents, and we have the secret of space time travel.

Well what’s so wrong in all that?

Well we hardly ever use our great powers. We consent simply to observe and to gather knowledge.

And that wasn’t enough for you?

No, of course not. With a whole galaxy to explore? Millions of planets, eons of time, countless civilisations to meet?

Well, why do they object to you doing all that?

Well, it is a fact, Jamie, that I do tend to get involved with things.

– Jamie, the Doctor and Zoe

The War Games represents the end of the era. It is the last appearance of Jamie as a regular companion. It is the last show featuring Patrick Troughton as the Doctor, although he would return for the occasional guest spot, celebration or charity episode. It was also the last of the series to be shot in black and white. The transition from Troughton to Pertwee would arguably be one of the most dramatic shifts in the history of the show. Not only would the show suddenly be broadcast in colour, and not only would it feature a new lead actor, but it would also have a new focus, grounded on Earth, and with that a new status quo and new rules. The show was only six years old at the time, but the change must have seemed radical to those watching.

The War Games isn’t the perfect episode – it’s too long and too plodding – but it is a lot more entertaining than some of the longer adventures, and it serves as a fond farewell to the “cosmic hobo” interpretation of the Doctor. Indeed, the episode probably seems a great deal harsher than it did in hindsight, with the specifics of regeneration not quite codified, the Doctor’s forced transformation seemed less like a formal execution than it does to modern audiences who watched the Tenth Doctor plead for more time.

The War Games is an effective and fond farewell to not only a particular iteration of the title character, but also a version of the show as a whole.

Run!

Run!

Continue reading