Regards the half-human Doctor: well, yes, you'd think I would be annoyed by that revelation, but as I state in the review, it is an unexpected turn I can accept because it doesn't disturb what I already know, it adds to it. What the revisions of the 1980s do is detract from what I know or contradict established histories. The former shows good thoughtful character development, whether you agree with the premise or not, many of the Cartmel character alterations [such as omnipotent prophecy or genocidal mania] do not - or they are remarkably slim. And as for changing timelines and villains' mythology, please, don't get me started or I'll have to rewatch Remembrance of the Daleks again 😉
Regards The Curse of the Fatal Death, at the risk of sounding tetchy, I wasn't going to include anything after the 1996 Doctor Who movie. It's a neat stopping point.
There is also an animated Doctor - known in circles as the Shalka Doctor - voiced by Richard E. Grant - but from the outset I didn't want to start reviewing these sorts of odds and ends to Classic Dr Who as they are pulling away from the accepted cast and characters. It's why I'm not reviewing the novelisations or the spin-off novels - that and the fact it would cost me too much money, even if I got them on Kindle.
I regret giving my Dr Who collection away to a charity store. Someone probably bought the whole lot for a song. It was over 100 books. I was kicking my adolescence down the pipe. Girls do that to you.
Regrets? I've had a few, too few to mention...
DR WHO AND THE CURSE OF FATAL DEATH (1999)
Okay, so I wasn’t going to cover this, but prompted by feedback and after carrying out proper research [I’d never watched it before] I thought it would be worth a look.
The four short episodes were produced specifically for the BBC Children in Need charity special in March 1999. At this point the BBC had no plans to return Dr Who to our screens, so it is interesting to observe the half-way decent production values given to twenty minutes of stupidity. It’s also notable for featuring five different actors as the Doctor. Rowan Atkinson has the biggest turn, as a supposed Ninth Doctor who is being pursued across the galaxy by Jonathon Pryce’s Master. They reach a planet called Tersursus whose inhabitants communicate by breaking wind. That was meant to be funny. It isn’t. There’s a repetitive joke about the Master falling down a hole. The Daleks turn up. The Doctor declares his love for his companion, Julia Sawalha’s Emma, and decides to retire from saving the universe. A series of mishaps result in the Doctor using up all his remaining lives by regenerating into Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and – in a full anticipation of Jodie Whittaker’s turn – Joanna Lumley. The funniest line was when Ms Lumley pulled out her sonic screwdriver and in full Ab Fab Patsy mode giggles “It’s even got three speeds.”
Writer Stephen Moffatt would go on to scribe regularly for the rebooted show, but that was several years away. Fans enjoy speculating on the bits he borrowed from Fatal Death and recycled into his new stories. Personally, I’m completely ambivalent about this kind of thing. It isn’t amusing and it isn’t decent science fiction.
It’s not a part of Classic Dr Who in the same way none of these interludes are. It passes a few clever references here and there, but that’s about it. The Master’s dimly lit TARDIS control room was the last time we saw the BBC version of the Doctor’s console room. If anything really does stand out its how good Messer’s Atkinson, Grant, Broadbent and Grant might have been if given a chance to be the Doctor in the late 1990s.
You can view it here:
The Shalka Doctor – Richard E. Grant
THE SCREAM OF THE SHALKA (2003)
I’m not entirely sure what to make of this animated continuation of the Dr Who legacy. Is it part of the Classic Series, the Reboot or a half-way house. I go with the latter, which really means it falls into neither Classic nor Reboot. That suits me in terms of my reviews, but it is something of a copout. After several years of BBC Worldwide attempting to revive interest in another Dr Who Movie, they settled on an animated webcast: six episodes of approx. 15 minutes which would continue the Doctor’s adventures, although from an unspecified time and place. Author Paul Cornell, who had penned several spin off New Adventure novels, provided a robust screenplay and expert cartoon animators Cosgrove & Hall dealt with the graphics.
During the run up to the webcast’s publication, the BBC heavily trailed Richard E. Grant as being the Ninth Doctor. However, just before the first webcast premiered in November 2003, it was announced that Russell T. Davies would be producing a new series of Dr Who for television, set to transmit in 2005. Ultimately, this would star Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor and whatever thoughts the powers-that-be had about an animated Doctor and an animated online series quickly bit the dust. Richard E. Grant’s vocal interpretation was consigned to the naughty corner and rarely spoke of, which is something of a shame.
I quite enjoyed Scream of the Shalka. It was well animated and scripted and there was a genuine sense of character building. There is a backstory to the Doctor’s circumstances that we learn piecemeal. The Reboot series ran a similar tactic with Eccleston’s incarnation. It works very well, explaining the Doctor’s reluctance to get involved in the affairs of UNIT and the abandoned town of Lannett, Lancashire. Without dwelling on the complete history, the Doctor has become intensely melancholic, rueing the death of a companion and experiencing guilt about his part in the extermination of millions [this could be those Dalek and Cybermen he wiped out in Season 25…]. The Master [Derek Jacobi] has also been physically eradicated, but his spirit / mind / essence has been preserved inside an android. Bound together by psychic elements of the TARDIS this robotic Master is unable to leave the time machine. While the Master is forced to help the Doctor, the Doctor appears to be forced against his will to do the Time Lords’ bidding. They communicate telepathically with him, as we have seen before, most prominently in The Deadly Assassin. Reluctantly the Doctor investigates the strange lava flows and the weird worm-like creatures that sporadically breakthrough the Earth’s surface with a dizzying scream.
The Shalka are a race of ecological space vampires, destroying dying worlds for their benefit, rather like the Tractators or the Nimon. They are led by Prime, an enormous looming Shalka slug who, during a face-to-face with the Doctor glowers over the Time Lord just how the Sea Devils did. Neat touch that. In fact, the whole serial has a touch of the Third Doctor about it, what with a UNIT-style force, an Earth invasion story, the Master meddling and a cartoon copy of the Pertwee title sequence 1970 -1973. He’s also given a sprightly new companion in Alison Cheney, a couple of decent stand-offs with the evil doers, a couple more with Jim Norton’s Major Kennet and a solution similar to the one he used to defeat the Pescatons [remember them? – Interlude 7 if you don’t].
It was all rather enjoyable. I rather wished they’d made a few more. A second adventure did see the light of day – a short story The Feast of Stone, published on a BBC webpage to do with cult sci-fi – but it is even less of a ‘canon’ adventure than this one. Curiously, Russell T. Davies has hinted in interviews that Rowan Atkinson, Grant and Eccleston are all parallel versions of the same incarnation. This handily ignores the claims of Richard E. Grant himself, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Joanna Lumley to also be parallel versions of either the Ninth Doctor or the Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth. [How confusing is this…?] A similar explanation would be used to pass off the War Doctor as Paul McGann’s Eighth incarnation. To confound us further, Derek Jacobi would actually play the Master in the new series. Sometimes it really is best to leave the past in the past.
One of the reasons I’m reviewing the Classic Series only is because I dislike exactly this sort of convoluted explanation of events concocted after they’ve occurred. It is almost as if time travel is happening within the current Dr Who mythology to amend the history to fit the moment. I prefer my Doctor’s mostly free of parallel universes and duplicated lifelines.
My major thought watching this was how well constructed I considered the narrative and how I wished it could have been expanded into a 100-minute movie starring Paul McGann. The background story, and even the manner of Richard E. Grant’s characterful delivery, seems to echo McGann’s half-human portrayal.
It isn’t canon, but it is a lot better than the two Comic Relief efforts, K9 and Company and those dreadful theatre shows. It also, I suggest, opened the way for a concerted effort to create more animated episodes to replace missing film from the 1960s seasons and for that, I guess, I should be thankful.
You can watch all these on You Tube or Daily Motion, just key in a search for Scream of the Shalka.
thanks for reviewing Curse of the Fatal Death! I know spoofs arent canon, but in my view theyre still essential viewing, and this one introduced some ideas that did become canon
I've never seen Scream of the Shalka, so I'll have to look for it
A similar explanation would be used to pass off the War Doctor as Paul McGann’s Eighth incarnation.
McGann wasnt the War Doctor: he regenerated into the War Doctor in a Moffatt-era retcon, making Eccleston at least the Tenth Doctor despite the convention of calling him the Ninth. Eccleston's doctor suffered from the guilt of killing millions in an unseen backstory, but the victims weren't Daleks or Cybermen, so I'm now wondering if thats the same event this animated Doctor feels guilt over?
McGann wasnt the War Doctor: he regenerated into the War Doctor in a Moffatt-era retcon, making Eccleston at least the Tenth Doctor despite the convention of calling him the Ninth. Eccleston's doctor suffered from the guilt of killing millions in an unseen backstory, but the victims weren't Daleks or Cybermen, so I'm now wondering if thats the same event this animated Doctor feels guilt over?
Thanks. I am not sure if you cleared that up or not! See how difficult this all is? I would hazard a guess that the guilt may well have been over those slaughtered Daleks, Cybermen and untold millions of innocents. It fits the timeline at the point of Shalka's writing and production. In a way, although I recall being impressed with Christopher Eccleston [NB when am I not impressed by Christopher Eccleston? A very fine actor indeed] I do now have a hankering for a world where the animated Ninth Doctor could have lived and breathed a little more.
Ah, well, we all like to dream.
A CLASSIC DR WHO SUMMARY
Well, it’s been a long road.
I started viewing Classic Dr Who way back on 5th January 2021 and the process of watching, researching, reviewing and posting has taken me exactly two years, given the odd day extra for being slack on my final posts. I watched the Doctor Who movie on 30th December last year and closed my rewatch of the era with a few wry smiles. While there have been more ups than downs, that sole Paul McGann adventure really did suggest our favourite Time Lord was going nowhere and not very fast in 1996.
Over Christmas and New Year I reread all my reviews and was surprised by the depth I gave on many of the stories. I perhaps didn’t do justice to the early William Hartnell adventures. The scanty reviews of excellent historical episodes like Marco Polo, The Reign of Terror, The Aztecs, The Romans and The Crusades are somewhat disappointing. I notice I didn’t even comment on episodes 2, 3 & 4 of An Unearthly Child which in retrospect is a huge oversight. Equally, some of my efforts to interpret the character and plot machinations are a little haphazard; I’m quite scathing of the poor execution and static plots of some, yet ignore it in others. The Keys of Marinus deserves a more thorough review, as does Planet of Giants. For all that, I feel I represented Hartnell well. The first two seasons are very good. The show is innovative and confrontational. The First Doctor is the most unwelcoming and petulant of all the incarnations. The fact he is older sits well with this manner. William Hartnell is fantastic. The nature of studio filming in the sixties and their ‘as live’ recording sessions meant the cast often made dialogue errors and poor Billy comes a cropper more than most, but this shouldn’t detract from the excellence of everything else. His companions are a mixed bunch, from the brilliant [Susan, Stephen] to the middling [Barbara, Vicky] and the poor [Dodo, Katrina, Ian].
Perhaps best of all for Hartnell are the Daleks. These psychopathic nasties are a revelation and after they arrived it was difficult for the show to come up with anything so striking. You almost feel they didn’t bother. Attempts were made, but for every relative success of a Sensorite, there was Zarbi or a Chumlie. The Daleks are a strong monster / villain but even their creator Terry Nation started to poke fun at them in The Chase. Luckily Mavic Chen and The Dalek’s Masterplan brought them back quickly to their evil best. It is worth noting that Hartnell met the Daleks, a Time Lord and the Cybermen before any other incarnation, so the benchmarks for villainy were set high from the off.
The most disappointing change the show made in these early seasons was the conclusion of the purely historical adventures. While it is fair to say some of these had become somewhat tedious or plain silly, done well, they usually offered opportunities for the cast and the production team to shine. Many of Hartnell’s best adventures are the historical ones. I would have liked to have seen a few more of this style of serial throughout the Classic run, if nothing else just to provide a change of pace. Some historically set serials are remarkably good [Horror of Fang Rock, for instance] and their sci-fi credentials seem almost an afterthought.
I wasn’t impressed by Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor who I find intensely annoying. It is exceedingly difficult to assess his era as so much of it is missing. Suffice to say, I dislike Troughton’s Doctor, I dislike Jamie, I dislike Victoria, I dislike Ben, I’m not over keen on Polly, but Zoe is brilliant. Troughton is blessed with a gamut of monsters but the stories all feel the same; this was the era of ‘those in peril’. When the ‘under siege’ formula is breached the results are mixed. The Evil of the Daleks was so-so, The Mind Robber excellent. Overall, this was a period of treading water for me. While Season 5 stands up particularly well, I feel most of the other existing Second Doctor’s adventures lack gravitas and drive.
I could write pages and pages on why I love Season 7 and why the UNIT era is for me the most consistent five year span of the show, but I won’t because I’ll bore you. Instead I’ll refer you back to pages 4 to 6 and suggest you read my reviews. Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor was blessed with colour film and the cost saving narrative device of banishment to 20th Century Earth. He was much more physical, hence the stories became more action orientated. Under the stewardship of producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance **** a truly golden era was created whose quality of story, cast and design was streets ahead of anything previously seen. If the arrival of the Master became a repetitive joke, it was never boring watching UNIT and the Brigadier fight the odds. A disappointing Season 11 didn’t end in the grand theatrical manner Pertwee deserved, although his ultimate sacrifice did for the first time expose his foibles: vanity and overconfidence. We saw these personality traits first in The Green Death and it was interesting to see them brought to the fore during these final adventures, but the production team were perhaps too careful in exposing the Doctor’s weak centre so the eventual denouement lies a little flat. Still, I can’t fault the drama and suspense which underpins so much of this era. Pertwee’s Doctor is a man to be respected; he commands the room whenever he enters and his portrayal is the most forthright and politically astute of all incarnations. He was blessed also with fine support in Liz Shaw, Jo Grant, Sarah Jane Smith and the Brigadier. Liz in particular was a revelation as a mature companion whose opinions were listened too and whose skills were both identifiable and helpful to the Doctor.
Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor is my Doctor because I grew up watching his adventures week in week out. That’s not to say there are no weaknesses. Baker began to inhabit the role to such an extent it wasn’t only the Doctor’s ego which needed clipping. While he featured in seven seasons of mostly superb serials, some of Baker’s acting does verge on a caricature of himself. Humour, used appropriately, always defuses tension, but as his reign continued the reliance on mirth to keep a story afloat began to sink the show. Blessed with an initial excellent producer in Philip Hinchcliffe and a more mellow and tethered replacement in Graham Williams, the backroom staff pretty much got things right for Baker’s run and fine season followed fine season. The cracks only started showing when Douglas Adams came on board as script editor. Even Baker’s swansong season showed promise albeit the sudden preponderance of confusing storylines was a bell tolling for the years to come. Baker’s run is exemplified for me by the great companions he had: Sarah Jane Smith, Leela, Romana I and even, at times, Romana II. Very strong supporting casts for the majority of his adventures helped immeasurably. The show was also at its most violent and terror filled during this period. While as a child I may have shrunk from the monsters and scenarios of The Ark in Space, The Seeds of Doom or The Brain of Morbius, as an adult I relish the intensity of the acting and taut direction which allowed these adventures to become so visually exciting. The fact that even a ‘whodunit’ such as The Robots of Death could become terrifying is a credit to the program makers of this era.
While Peter Davison was a younger Doctor, he doesn’t disgrace the show. Overall, his three seasons were just about okay, and I find his harassed, youthful and unexpectedly tetchy Doctor refreshing after the teeth and jelly babies of his too cocky predecessor. This Doctor perhaps more than any incarnation doesn’t get along very well with his companions. Adric, Turlough and Tegan all receive the sharp edge of his tongue; only Nyssa escapes a roasting. It’s fair to say that Davison is too often swamped by his fellow travellers. The early days of the show were notable for the Doctor usually having two or three companions, but each could easily be accommodated due to the regular epic six or ten or twelve part serials that allowed characters to shine individually of the story’s main thrust. In an era of four part stories, there simply isn’t the time and none of the regular cast have their character fully explored. It is notable Davison’s best adventure occurs when he, and the writer, only have one companion to deal with [Peri]. It doesn’t help that explanations are jostled between and around the travellers and we need a lot of explanations for Davison’s stories, beginning the downward spiral into purposefully vague and often imperceptive plotlines. The first instances of nostalgia tinged events also register and while these are pleasant, their execution leaves a lot to be desired.
This latter theme recurred constantly in Colin Baker’s disastrous reign. I’m still completely at a loss to explain how Colin Baker was allowed to get away with his appalling interpretation of the Doctor. He is blessed with one good companion and hamstrung by a poor run of stories which mostly do damage to the Dr Who legacy by bending established ‘facts’ to accommodate new ideas. I think it is enough for me to say that Colin Baker as a Doctor – or at least his playing of the Doctor – is a mistake. Most of his adventures would need serious revision to compare with the winnable output of the 1970s. Vengeance on Varos excepted, his tenure is very bleak and was not helped by bickering between producer John Nathan Turner and script editor Eric Saward.
Things didn’t get a lot better with Sylvester McCoy, although he is a better Doctor [just]. The problem with McCoy’s tenure, other than its brevity, is the so-called ‘Cartmel Masterplan’ which sought to overturn much of what we learnt about the Doctor. Far from making him mysterious this only succeeded in making him appear rude, callous and ridiculously omnipotent. It’s a big character change from everything we’ve learnt before and I don’t like it. The convoluted plotlines drag almost all his adventures down and by now the cheapness of the production values is all-too obvious. I had very little interest in these stories. They were, by-and-large, a difficult watch.
While Paul McGann’s one-off movie Doctor was a welcome return, and I enjoy his performance, the adventure is half-baked and on the basis of what I saw, I’m fairly pleased a follow-up series never came about, chiefly because the prophetic turn implied by McCoy is given much heavier weight here and I dislike this angle from a point of storytelling time travelling logic.
It is a great pity the BBC did not understand how good a product they had in Dr Who when it mattered – the early to mid-seventies. Here, the show was genuinely setting new ground for science fiction. Adventures were highly visceral and featured strong characters which aided both drama and danger. However by acquiescing to the ‘morality brigade’ of the National Viewers and Listeners Association and demanding the show was toned down – the BBC never consulted its 12 million plus audience over this, only the few people who objected – the series became bogged down in attempts to soften its hard edges. Children can handle difficult themes, subjects and events. They deal with them in real life all the time and yes, some things shock and upset them, but in terms of watching television, I think even in the seventies most kids recognised this was a fictional world – I mean, there was an old fashioned police box spiralling around the universe, for goodness sake. Later attempts to make the show’s storylines appeal to an older audience seemed to go hand-in-hand with infantilising much of the actors, props and monsters. The days of innovation and guile which passed before us in the sixties and seventies were shot to pieces by the time Peter Davison hung up his cricket bat and it was a long and painful decline from there.
Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed my two year challenge and I am now in some wonder at the brilliance I have often witnessed and, equally at times, aghast at the frequent unbelievable shoddiness. This year  the show celebrates a sixty year anniversary and for any television series, movie franchise or book cycle to last so long is a testament to the enduring quality of entertainment offered by all those who, over the decades, have taken part in crafting Dr Who. Yes, sometimes the quality has dipped, but there have always been glimmers of producer Sidney Newman’s original vision even when episodes have veered towards the faintly ridiculous.
However, to conclude, when it is very good, Classic Dr Who is a thought provoking, socially aware, suspenseful, exciting and memorable science fiction series and it is these times I will treasure most from my journey through the space and time of the universe of Dr Who.
And this is just for fun...
I am a little addicted to lists. These are a few I have concocted which are my personal view of the ‘best’ of Classic Dr Who. I suppose, they are really ‘favourites’ lists, but not entirely.
1 Tom Baker
2 Jon Pertwee
3 William Hartnell
4 Peter Davison
5 Sylvester McCoy
6 Paul McGann
7 Patrick Troughton
8 Colin Baker
An honourable mention must go to
9 William Hurndell
1 The Silurians
2 Genesis of the Daleks
3 The Robots of Death
4 The Daleks
5 The Caves of Androzani
6 Spearhead from Space
7 City of Death
8 The Daemons
9 The Talons of Weng Chiang
10 The Tenth Planet
11 The Three Doctors
13 The Ark in Space
14 The Mind Robber
15 Vengeance on Varos
16 The Romans
17 The Curse of Peladon
18 The War Games
19 The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
20 The Aztecs
Curious coincidence - I only gave twenty stories a 5 star rating.
1 Sarah Jane Smith
2 Liz Shaw
3 Romana #I
5 Susan Foreman
6 Steven Taylor
7 Zoe Herriot
8 Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart
9 Jo Grant
10 Peri Brown
Best Monster / Villain
1 The Daleks
2 The Master
3 Eldrad (the Female) – from The Hand of Fear
4 The Cybermen
5 Sharez Jek – from The Caves of Androzani
6 Mavic Chen – from The Daleks’ Masterplan
7 The Mara
8 Linx (the Sontaran) – from The Time Warrior
9 Sil (the Mentor) – from Vengeance on Varos and Mindwarp
10 The Zygons
I was very tempted to include Davros separately.
Best Episode Endings
1 The Deadly Assassin – episode 3 – Chancellor Goth begins to drown the Doctor
2 Planet of the Spiders – episode 1 – a giant spider materialises during a séance
3 The Hand of Fear – episode 1 – a fossilised hand begins to vibrate & the fingers move
4 The Daleks – episode 1 – Barbara is menaced by an as-yet unseen foe (a Dalek)
5 The Mind Robber – episode 1 – the TARDIS disintegrates; Zoe & Jamie cling to the console
6 Vengeance on Varos – episode 1 – as the population of Varos watches on television, the Doctor dies in the Punishment Dome
7 Fury from the Deep – episode 3– Robson watches as Maggie Harris drowns herself
8 Terror of the Zygons – episode 1 – Sarah turns from a pay phone to be menaced by a Zygon
9 An Unearthly Child – episode 1 – the TARDIS materialises on a barren outcrop
10 The Dalek Invasion of Earth – episode 1 – a Dalek rises from the waters of the Thames
11 Enlightenment – episode 1 – emerging on the deck of the S.S. Shadow, the Doctor realises the yacht is surrounded by other historical ships taking part in a planet spanning space race
12 The Tenth Planet – episode 4 – the Doctor has ‘died’ but his appearance has changed
13 The Moonbase – episode 3 – the Cybermen stalk across the surface of the moon
14 Horror of Fang Rock – episode 3 – the Doctor realises he’s locked an alien entity inside the lighthouse
15 The Caves of Androzani – episode 3 – the Doctor attempts to control a spaceship hurtling for the surface of Androzani Minor
16 Nightmare of Eden – episode 3 – the Doctor and Romana leap through the C.E.T.’s holographic image
17 Carnival of Monsters – episode 1 – a giant hand lifts the TARDIS out of the cargo hold of the SS Bernice
18 The Robots of Death – episode 2 – the sand miner begins to topple over during a sandstorm
19 The Caves of Androzani – episode 1 – the Doctor and Peri are shot by a firing squad
20 The Ice Warriors – episode 1 – as Jamie and Victoria marvel at the sophisticated future of Earth, an Ice Warrior comes alive behind them
I could have gone on and on; there are lots of brilliant cliff-hanger moments.
Best Individual Episode
1 An Unearthly Child – episode 1
2 The Ark in Space – episode 1
3 The Massacre – episode 4
4 The Mind Robber – episode 1
5 Death to the Daleks – episode 1
6 Genesis of the Daleks – episode 5
7 The Deadly Assassin – episode 3
8 The Silurians – episode 6
9 The Caves of Androzani – episode 4
10 The Invisible Enemy – episode 3
11 Enlightenment – episode 1
12 Planet of the Daleks – episode 1
13 The Ribos Operation – episode 1
14 Earthshock – episode 1
15 The Brain of Morbius – episode 4
16 The Ice Warriors – episode 1
17 Spearhead from Space – episode 1
18 Inferno – episode 3
19 The War Games – episode 10
20 The Hand of Fear – episode 1
Again, this list could be at least three times as long
Best Ever Season
1 Season 7
2 Season 14
3 Season 10
4 Season 13
5 Season 5
An honourable mention to Season 1, if not the best certainly the most innovative.
a standing ovation for @chrisno1 ! Hear, hear! Encore!
those lists will be very useful for those of us who cherry-pick which episodes to watch. Though I should probably just watch all of Pertwee and T Baker's episodes some day.
Yes, I concur. Thank you for your brilliant thead, your diligent research added immensely to my own enjoyment of viewing the series, clearing up many points that I missed or misinterpreted. I loved reading your reviews, and disagreeing with some of them is all part of the fun.
Just in case anyone is interested in Dr Who of either classic or reboot or spin off [Torchwood, etc] the BBC iPlayer is going to have the whole blooming lot available from November 1st. It is, of course, the sixtieth anniversary of the show this year. Apparently, because of a rights issue, the opening serial An Unearthly Child is just about the only one that isn't available. Mighty disappointing for an anniversary. Whether the Beeb are putting out remaining episodes from adventures where parts are lost isn't clear; nor is it clear they will be showing the animated versions of any of those lost episodes or adventures. I don't have iPlayer. Uncle Earl has everything available from Doctors 1 - 3. Everything is gettable online if you look hard enough, including fan made photo and audio versions.
BBC I-Player is free to download and view - most smart tv’s already have it installed, or you can also download it via an Amazon Firestick or similar device. I have it on my Firestick here and view it via my VPN.
Yes, sorry, I should have written I DON'T USE iPlayer. It's a personal choice.
Lots of activity for Dr Who in the run up to the 60th Anniversary:
Television next Thursday 23rd, the anniversary date itself:
BBC4 7.30pm DR WHO AND THE DALEKS IN COLOUR
followed by 8.45pm AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE AND TIME - a repeat of Mark Gattis' 2013 drama following the conception of the TV show in 1963.
Radio next Sunday 19th:
RADIO 4 4.30pm DR WHO: THE WILDERNESS YEARS - discussing the period from 1989 - 2005 when Dr Who was not in production
RADIO 4 9pm 60 YEARS OF FRIENDS AND FOES - interviews with actors and contributors regarding the Doctor's companions and enemies and their cultural impact. This might be the most interesting program of the lot.
I don't know, I couldn't find this thread on ajb when I looked, or on the search, had to go on Google to find it.
Anyway, tonight as ChrisNo1 mentioned above, they are showing the colourised version of Dr Who and the Daleks - not sure really if that will be scarier than in black and white, thing with b+w is they didn't have to get the colours right, did they? You could imagine the metal foes were a gunmetal grey rather than Thunderbirds blue.
Sort of enjoyed Dr Who in Colour, it's Gogglebox viewing though. I warmed to the Daleks in a way - it's odd, because nowadays we think, well, why can't either of the two women venture out to the Tardis given the young man is paralysed, but back then he was meant to be the heroic gallant figure. When the Daleks reasonably point out one of the women could go, at the time it would be evidence of what heartless brutes they really are.
I enjoyed more the dramatisation of the making of the first Dr Who episodes by Mark Gatiss, Really well done.
Thanks for those comments @Napoleon Plural
DR WHO AND THE DALEKS: IN COLOUR
The Sixtieth Anniversary
And so here we are sixty years to the day and thirteen – or is it fourteen or fifteen ? – Doctors on and the BBC is still able to surprise us. I don’t mean by bringing back Katherine Tate and David Tennant for a celebration episode or by chucking every available Classic Era episode it has on the iPlayer or by being in a legal wrangle which prevents transmission of the opening episode. No. Instead they tackle what could be termed sacred ground and offer a highly condensed telefilm of the first ever Dalek story, the adventure which made the series into the phenomenon it was and then became again. To add sparkle to the event, the print has been tidied up and delicately colourised, some more modern visual and sound effects added, the Dalek voices replaced by Nicholas Briggs’ stylised turn and a thumping new incidental score added. Does this make the seventy-five minute adventure anything more than an off-beat dinner party talking point: “Did you see that colour version of Dr Who?” – “I remember the original.” – “It was in colour first time around.” – “No, that was the movie.” – “Who was that doddery old fella as the Doctor?” – “I thought it was crap.” etc. etc.?
Well, to be brutal, probably not. First, let’s be honest about what we have. The 1963 adventure The Daleks is one of the best and most innovative serials the series ever made. I rated it very highly in my Classic Countdown, as it were. It has verve and intrigue, some excitement and touches of sharp visuals that hint at the show’s likely future. It also has a great performance from William Hartnell as the Doctor at his irascible best, even sabotaging his own time machine so he can investigate a distinctly sinister looking metal city. He’s backed up ably by Carole Ann Ford as his granddaughter Susan and Jacqueline Hill as teacher Barbara Wright. For me, the jury was always out on Ian Chesterton; William Russell simply isn’t commanding enough in the expected heroic manner. He seems never to have left the school room at Coal Hill High, a fact made very obvious when he lectures the Thals on the necessity to fight for freedoms and survival. Best of all though are the titular Daleks who grate and spin and scream “Exterminate” with some aplomb. They are not remotely scary, but you can imagine why they might have been, those suckers pushing the actors around, the screeching disembodied voices, the pepper-pot design, their total lack of morality. However, a condensed version of the story can’t elaborate on the format, only detract from it.
There has inevitably to be a certain subtraction of tension. Sequences which took up whole episodes are squashed into a few minutes. This has positives – the slimmed down trawl through the mountains, forests and caves for Ian and Barbara’s commando group – and negatives, such as the lack of any decent explanation of what is happening. Sequences I vividly recall, such as when our heroes suffer radiation sickness, are nowhere near as involving for the audience because they are so elementary in the shortened format. Interestingly, the editors instead intercut the desperate suffering with Susan’s plight in the forest and this creates a whole new and very different, more realistic, version of suspense and horror. The pluses and minuses continue like this through the whole show.
I was impressed with the colourisation, although the Daleks are a bit bland. The Thals too really look like cheap Aztecs in leotards, although the trousers with ventilation holes are stylistically very 21st Century. Otherwise they are a bit of a fashion disaster and no great shakes in the personality stakes either. The story really is driven by the Dalek menace, be it interrogation, imprisonment, extermination, genocide or screaming. Once you satisfy yourself with that, it is easy to allow any mishaps with the updating to wash over you.
It really was too short, feeling very rushed towards the end when things began to happen without much explanation. Like all modern programs and movies the incidental music was annoyingly noisy and noisily present at times when it shouldn’t be. The constant flashbacks to scenes we had seen only twenty minutes earlier became superfluous. Some scenes mind were much better in colour than in black and white. The mutant swamp beast was one. The initial investigation of the multicoloured maze-like interior of the Dalek city was another.
On a character level, there isn’t enough time to draw any conclusions about anyone. The barest essentials have been left to brood. The most interesting moments all come from William Hartnell. Early on the Doctor deceives his companions so he can visit the city; this side of the Doctor became less and less apparent as other incarnations took over. It is clear he doesn’t even like Ian and Barbara very much, considering them interlopers into his domain. He extracts information from the Daleks while under intense interrogation, a trick which would become a regular feature of the show. Later the Doctor expresses interest in the Thal's history and mythology, and again this is not always shown by later incarnations who had a tendency to be a know-it-all with an omnipotent eye. As the series developed, it becomes difficult to see how the Doctor could have performed many of the feats he does when he is so defenceless in this story: suffering radiation poisoning, displaying only some but not all scientific knowledge, most notably not being aware of the planet Skaro and its history. One of the lines the infamous Andrew Cartnell must have grabbed onto given how he strove to over-develop the Doctor into a mythical being is where Hartnell suggest he is “too old to be a pioneer, although I was one once a long time ago.” Attempting to tie the Doctor in with Rassilon and Omega is a long stretch to pull from that mild remark though.
Dr Who and the Daleks: In Colour lacks the epic length of the original but gains some decent effects and a very good colour palette. It felt as if the revisionists wanted to create a 14th Doctor runaround when one of the beauties of the Classic Era is that stories took time to develop character, relationships, tension and villainy. For all the jazzy, snazzy look of the thing, it lacks all of those story telling essentials and is nothing more than a ricochet of highlights. Some great memories nonetheless – who can forget the scaly, claw-like hand scrabbling underneath the tortoiseshell cape? – and a lovely way to celebrate sixty years of a British television cultural hero.
Happy Anniversary Doctor Who !
I started watching this last night - I thought the colourisation was ok, I didn’t like the revoicing of the daleks so stopped watching. I agree that the original serial is one of the best in whole series, if not the best, ever.
Somebody has to be brave or suicidal enough to kick this off so...... The Star Beast! Wot a highly polished 60 minute turd that was! Disney put millions into it and regrettably even the return of David Tennant could not save it. When Aliens start talking about their designation or pronouns and the Doc' himself is questioned for assuming the Meep was a him? it is time to switch off. What next? the metallic cry of "They Are The Daleks!"
Woke should stay away from Bond, NTTD was the bloodiest Bond to date and yet to satisfy political correctness? the blood was removed from the Prologue or Gun Barrel sequence ..... this is Bullsh*t! and I'm sorry but by the same token IMO it should stay away or at least be toned down from effectively a children's programme and as for the colourisation of The Daleks .... great, I'm all for it but adding a drum machine solo at times of tension ... oh dear! but the biggest crime, removing the Radiophonic Workshop music from the end titles! This dum de dum theme has been a constant for 60 years with only occasional minor tweaks to the classic original. Perhaps it is time for Auntie Beeb (or should that be Uncle?) to realise If it aint broken? don't change it!
If this is what happens when Disney pumps a mint into something (which we have seen with the Star Wars movies with the exception of Rogue One) which the BBC used to pump £20 into (wooden or cardboard sets) I fear for the future of OO7 if it takes a similar route which has to be on the cards as EON's rights to the franchise with the Ian Fleming Estate come up for renewal or decline?
Re the colourisation, one point - the original black and white wasn't great quality, not pin sharp, and it hadn't been remastered - was that possible even? So it didn't look as good as the colourisation of the England victory in the World Cup, or the Beatles singing 'All You Need Is Love'. It never looked lovely or impressive.
Here's a point, possibly addressed by ChrisNo1 in his previous reviews - at what point does the UK learn of the existence of UFOs/Alien life form? When is that cat let out of the bag in the show? Nobody knows in the very first episode, the reason the two schoolteachers are freaked out at what they find. But in the recent era, at some point it becomes established and acknowledged by the Government that aliens exist. This does change everything. When the Daleks invade London, around '65 I guess, it the cat out of the bag then?
I enjoyed the latest Dr Who instalment a lot, though this isn't really the thread for it, I think, as it's just the classic series. I suppose the woke-ness is a thing these days. It tends to be a bit distracting. The show doesn't wear it lightly. The lack of blood in the last Bond gun barrel was to signify or hint that for once Bond doesn't take out his man, rather he gets taken out himself. It wasn't to be woke.
Thanks for your input @ppw3o6r I listened to the radio documentary 60 YEARS OF FRIENDS AND FOES and they concentrated a whole quarter of the documentary on the sexual nuances of Dr Who, from the 'dolly bird' presentation of Polly or Jo Grant to how the new series has approached queer issues and homosexual characters. They also talked about how violent content has been adjusted - and altered on master tapes in the case of The Deadly Assassin and Paradise Towers. While the program was interesting, it wasn't really a reflection on the show, more an appreciation of how it has reflected social and political times. Many commentators quite rightly note how changes of popular culture, institutions, societal shifts, etc have been represented during the show. Maybe that is what is happening again with the incident you mention - and not only here, but with Bond also.
Sadly - for me - the contributors comment on a host of Classic serials which I regard as being some of the very worst, in particular those of the Sylvester McCoy era. I was pleased they noted the often forgotten hipster vibe given to The War Machines, yet nobody notices that the sixties groove is only hinted at once more, in The Macra Terror. You can't pick singular incidents and suggest this is representative of the whole show. They better succeeded with a brief resume of the Doctor's green credentials, but while referencing The Green Death, they skipped over all the other times the Doctor decries man's technological obsessions as doing no future good at all [e.g. Enemy of the World, The Ice Warriors, Colony in Space]. Most of the episodes referenced were IMO rubbish ones. It was too reverential a documentary.
Doctor Who: 60 years of Friends and Foes - BBC Sounds
More fun was Channel 5's Sixty Years of Secrets and Scandals which at least approached its subject with good humour. I enjoyed hearing Michael Grade admit that he hated the show, and in fact hates sci-fi in general, but that having watched Star Wars etc he couldn't stomach all the cheap cardboard sets on Dr Who. That was pretty much my opinion in 1984 as well, which was when I became a part-time viewer.
I didn't watch The Star Beast. As @Napoleon Plural says, I don't watch the rebooted series.
I enjoy your observations on Who and think you pretty much nailed it on the colourised episode of The Daleks. My Who memories are of Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker with regrettably Peter Davison and Colin Baker in hot pursuit. My only real memory of Sylvester McCoy was Remembrance of the Daleks as I think the storylines seriously lost the plot when the guest artists were Beryl Reid, Ken Dodd and Bertie Bassett to name but a few. What made DW for me as a child of the 60’s and 70’s were the cliff hangers. I can remember being scared by the Autons and the first appearance of the Sea Devils and let us not forget the Daemons! DW was reignited for me when Matt Smith stepped into Patrick Troughton’s shoes with both Karen Gilliam and Jenna Coleman. Blink was an utter classic which I do not believe has been surpassed before or since? I gave up watching the series with Peter Capaldi or to be exact when they killed off Jenna’s character Clara Oswald who they even managed to weave into the storyline of the Doc' nicking the Tardis in the first place. The last Jodi episode I saw was a New Year’s Day (2019?) Dalek story where a chap spent the episode carrying a microwave oven which they eventually used to toast the Dalek….. I couldn’t stomach the programme after that although my understanding is it got progressively worse from there with changing known histories of characters and aliens by writers who had clearly not been brought up reading the Target paperbacks or quite possibly watching DW themselves? From what I understand some of the stories have rubbished previous/decades previous storylines such as the genesis of the Cybermen? I wanted to enjoy the return of Tennant in The Star Beast and to those who did then happy days but for myself “it” was left seriously lacking! For this to survive they need to return to two parters or quite possibly five parters if my memory serves me correctly? to build up the tension of "how the hell does he/she/they or I'm a teapot" get out of this one? 🤔
@ppw3o6r If you read all of this thread you will see many of the issues you highlight with the new [now not so new] Dr Who had already begun to be a problem in the latter days of the Classic Era, most notably, but not always, the Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy years. The use of parallel universes has allowed the writers to do pretty much as they please and any definitive timeline of the show is now a thankless task. I mean, seriously, why would you bother to unravel it?
Like you, Pertwee and Tom Baker were my entrance exam and I have a soft spot for Davison because I feel he was hard done by by the too scientific writing. Hartnell, though, when I rewatched was an absolute revelation: when he is good, he is superior and commanding, he also has a nifty sense of humour and his tetchiness, bolshiness and meanness is completely different to how you would expect a hero to behave. When Colin Baker tried it, he just came across as arrogant and egotistical, Hartnell plays it almost exactly how he looks: like a doddery, misunderstood, principled old man. Basically, your granddad out of his armchair.
Word has it that Colin Baker's character was meant to undergo an arc, where he starts off rude and arrogant but we gradually get to see him soften. His short tenure put paid to that so we only saw him being rude. He has also cited the way the show was handled, that is, messed about with its scheduling. He and McCoy could almost be seen as the Timothy Dalton era - trying to do something bold but let down by the downward trajectory of the series at the time.