Monday, 24 October 2016

Children In Need 1 - Born Again

In which Rose struggles to come to terms with the new Doctor. He has just regenerated, and is mainly interested in his new physiology and appearance. At first Rose thinks he is an imposter - perhaps even a Slitheen. He mentions various shared experiences, to prove he is still the Doctor. If given the choice, Rose wants him to transform back into the Doctor she knew. The Doctor suddenly starts to act bizarrely, belching Artron Energy. He becomes increasingly more and more manic, and speeds up the TARDIS. Instead of the planet Barcelona, he will now take Rose home for Christmas, but the ship is flying out of control...

This 7 minute minisode was produced for inclusion in the BBC's 2005 Children In Need telethon, broadcast on 18th November. Officially, it is titled Doctor Who: Children In Need. Writer Russell T Davies jokingly referred to it as the "Pudsey Cutaway" - recalling how Mission to the Unknown was often called "Dalek Cutaway". Pudsey is the telethon's mascot - a teddy bear with a spotted bandage over his eye. One officially licensed reference book referred to this under the title of Born Again, which is the one I usually use.
After a lengthy recap of events from Parting of the Ways, we get the short scene outlined above.

  • This marked the public's first proper view of David Tennant, one month before his proper debut in The Christmas Invasion.
  • You can clearly see that this was filmed by a different director from Parting of the Ways, as the lighting of the TARDIS is so much different.
  • Elements from the first series are referenced as the Doctor tries to convince Rose that he is the same man. He tells her that Captain Jack will be busy rebuilding the Earth - suggesting that he knows that he is still alive. Later he will reveal that he knew Rose had brought him back to life, and made him immortal, and he left hurriedly without him deliberately. 
  • The version released on the Series 2 DVD box set is slightly different in terms of music, and the cloister bell sound effect is missing.
  • The minisode does not have any end credits.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Class 1.1 & 1.2 - Reviewed

The first two episodes of Class have just been screened on BBC3. I just watched them courtesy of the BBC i-player service, where you can also view a number of behind the scenes videos.
Don't read this if you have yet to get the series where you live. Shhh - spoilers!

First of all, is it any good? I would say definitely yes - so no worries there then. The first episode - For Tonight We Might Die - sets the scene, introduces the characters, and links the show to its parent series.
The setting is what used to be Coal Hill School in Shoreditch, London - now upgraded to Academy status. This is where Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright used to work, and where the Doctor's granddaughter Susan was once a pupil. Later, it would be used as a base of operations by the Daleks, seeking the Hand of Omega. Ian Chesterton would go on to become one of the school governors, and Clara Oswald and Danny Pink would teach there. The latter two characters get an on screen reference, as the Doctor sees their names inscribed on a wall in a roll of honour. And of course the Doctor was briefly the caretaker at the school.
Another link to the parent series is the inclusion of head teacher Mr Armitage, who we first saw in a couple of Series 8 stories.

The basic set up is that all of the above alien activity has weakened space / time, and so there is a Cardiff-style rift in the area. The Doctor should have thought about that before placing a couple of alien refugees there. Or maybe he did. It's clear that Charlie is going to be an alien from the start, as he takes everything people say so literally, and doesn't know who Idris Elba is. He's the latest Unearthly Child to be schooled at Coal Hill. Turns out he's an alien prince, from the planet of the Preppies. Miss Quill comes from the same world. She was a freedom fighter / terrorist who has been linked to Charlie via some parasitical creature. As punishment for her crimes / freedom fighting activities, she must now protect him. She can only fight if his life is threatened, and can't use weapons. Charlie's planet was destroyed by the demonic Shadow Kin, and he and Miss Quill were rescued by the Doctor (possibly in his Ninth incarnation, judging from the musical score). The Shadow Kin have now used the tear in space / time to find Charlie. He makes friends of sorts with three other pupils - April, who can't get a date for the prom; Tanya, who is younger than her peers and has a rather domineering mother: and Ram, who is the star football player and is a bit of an arrogant lad. As well as Tanya's mother, we get to meet April's, who is confined to a wheelchair, and Ram's father - who at first looks like he is going to be the pushy dad, but who we see in a different light once Ram has shown him his alien artificial leg. Yes, we'll come to that.

The Shadow Kin attack the school during the Prom. Ram's prom-date gets skewered. He loses his leg. April loses her heart to the Shadow Kin king. The Doctor turns up after Quill calls him and the Shadow Kin get sent packing - threatening the usual "you haven't seen the last of us" bit. The Doctor then tasks the youngsters and Quill to protect against whatever might drop through the tear.
One of these is an alien dragon, as we see in the second episode - The Coach With The Dragon Tattoo. No guesses where that title came from.
Ram's struggling to come to terms with both his new leg, that won't kick a ball straight, and his girlfriend getting skewered by aliens. Understandable, I would have thought. Instead of paling up with the others, he goes all moody on his own. That's until he learns that they have also seen a flesh flaying dragon, which looks just like the tattoo on his football coach. Sadly, Mr Armitage is one of the victims, so doesn't make it beyond the second episode.
The gore factor is high. Poor Ram gets drenched in blood two weeks running as well as getting his leg severed, and we get brief glimpses of skinned corpses. Diversity-wise, all the boxes are ticked. Ethnically diverse characters, someone in a wheelchair, and Charlie has a boyfriend. Personally I thought that the tick boxing was a bit too blatant. Tanya bonds with Ram because they are both non-white. That would be all very well if they were the only non-white people in the school, but this is Shoreditch we are talking about for goodness sake.

The highlight of the show is Kathrine Kelly's Miss Quill. She gets all the best lines. She's permanently passive-aggressive, when not being just downright rude and condescending, and I love her. The second episode deals mainly with Ram and Tanya, but Quill gets a personal duel with an enigmatic OFSTED inspector who she just doesn't trust. With good reason, as it turns out he's an android belonging to some outfit called The Governors. This will obviously play out later, as will there be a return of the Shadow Kin, as their king and April share a heart. Don't ask.
It also looks like Charlie's race might not necessarily be doomed to oblivion after all, as he has a box known as the Cabinet of Souls, that might just turn out to be some sort of race bank.
Overall, a cracking good start to the latest spin-off series. One always worries with Young Adult material that it will alienate those younger and older than the target audience. Personally, I have always felt that Young Adults are the only ones totally uninterested in YA-targeted books / films. Older and younger people tend to be the ones who lap them up most. YA's are too busy off doing YA things.
I am well over the YA age limit, but will certainly be logging on for the next 6 weeks.
Best line so far: "He's from OFSTED. Of course he's evil."
Also loved the Doctor's expressed love of darts - the perfect combination of mathematics and heavy alcohol consumption.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Story 166 - Bad Wolf / Parting of the Ways

In which the Doctor and his companions suddenly wake to find themselves in deadly versions of TV game shows. The Doctor is in the Big Brother House - where evictees are vapourised. Jack meets robot fashionistas Trin-E and Zu-Zana, of What Not To Wear. After considering his wardrobe, they plan to use lethal weapons to refashion his physiognomy. Rose finds herself playing The Weakest Link, hosted by the Ann-Droid. Losing contestants are also vapourised. The Doctor realises that someone has removed them from the TARDIS. He deliberately has himself evicted - knowing that whoever is responsible isn't going to kill him. They could have done this before now. He takes with him another contestant - Lynda - after proving to her that she is unlikely to have survived to win the competition. He discovers that they are on Satellite 5 - now renamed the Game Station. It is run by the Bad Wolf Corporation. Lynda explains that 100 years ago, the news channels suddenly stopped broadcasting. Society on Earth collapsed. The Doctor is horrified to learn that he was responsible for this, as it is 100 years since his last visit here. Jack destroys his robot captors and joins them. They search for Rose and head for the Weakest Link studio. However, they are too late, and the Doctor sees Rose vapourised.

They are captured by security forces, who plan to imprison them in a lunar penal colony. The Doctor and Jack quickly break free and head for Floor 500, to confront whoever is in charge here. In the control room, one of the TV programmers has been detecting strange signals coming from the station. A young woman is linked to the station's computers, with all the channels being processed through her brain. She has been here since she was a child. The Doctor, Jack and Lynda arrive. Jack finds the TARDIS hidden in a side room. He goes in and checks the systems, and discovers the true nature of the signals that the programmer has been detecting. The contestants who are being vapourised are really being transmatted off the station. Rose is still alive somewhere. The programme controller tries to warn the Doctor but is transmatted away and killed. The Doctor has the station monitors focus on the region of space to where the signals are being broadcast. At first it appears to be empty, but then they see a vast fleet of saucer-like craft - Dalek spaceships. Rose is on the huge command ship, a prisoner of the Daleks. The Doctor signals to the fleet that he is coming to get her...

The Doctor pilots the TARDIS towards the Dalek command saucer. It materialises on board. Emerging, he and Jack are confronted by a vast army of Daleks, led by the Emperor. This is a massive static Dalek, with its own private guard of black-domed Daleks. It is a survivor of the Time War. It has spent centuries creating a new army, using cells from captured humans. It is quite mad, and the Daleks have been conditioned to worship it as their god. Rose is rescued, and the TARDIS returns to the Game Station where Jack begins to plan its defences. The Doctor has a scheme to destroy the entire Dalek fleet, but this will wipe out half the Earth. The fleet begins to advance on the Station. The Doctor tricks Rose into entering the TARDIS, which he has set to return her to London in 2006 by remote control. She is reunited with her mother and Mickey. The Doctor has left a hologram message that the TARDIS will simply shut down and eventually be forgotten about. Rose refuses to return to her old life and seeks a way of getting back to the Doctor. Eventually, Jackie and Mickey realise that she will never stay, so decide to help her. Recalling that the TARDIS console had opened when they were in Cardiff recently, she tries to make it open for her.

The Daleks arrive in orbit around Earth and begin devastating the planet. They invade the Game Station and begin working their way towards Floor 500. Jack and a number of station personnel try to fight them, but to no avail. Lynda is amongst those killed, along with the TV programmer. Jack is then himself killed. On Earth, Rose sees the phrase "Bad Wolf" written all over the place. She realises that this is a message to herself - that she can get back to the Doctor. Jackie borrows a tow-truck, and this is powerful enough to open the TARDIS console. The doors slam shut as Rose is filled with Vortex energy, and the ship hurtles back to the year 200,100. The Doctor is captured by the Daleks, and admits that he could never use his device to destroy the Daleks and half of the human race. He is about to be exterminated when the TARDIS materialises.

Rose emerges, now containing the entire Vortex. This makes her omnipotent. She brings Jack back to life, then takes the name of the corporation and spreads the words throughout time - as a message for herself. Finally, she removes the Daleks and their vessels from existence. The Doctor realises that she will die if she holds the energy for much longer, and so absorbs it into himself. He bundles her into the TARDIS and dematerialises. Jack arrives too late. Rose wakes to find the Doctor is seriously ill. He tells her that he is about to change, and he won't look like this anymore. The Vortex energy has triggered a regeneration. Rose sees the Doctor's body engulfed in a blaze of energy - and suddenly there is a different man standing where the Doctor had been. After a quick check on his appearance, he completes what the Doctor had been telling her. Rose looks on, dumbfounded...

Bad Wolf / Parting of the Ways were written by Russell T Davies, and were broadcast on June 11th and 18th, 2005. It marks the end of Series 1 of the revamped show, and these are the last two episodes to feature Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. Naturally, it also features the first appearance of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor. It sees the return of the Daleks en masse, and brings the Bad Wolf story arc to a conclusion. It also lays the seeds for Captain Jack's further adventures, name-checking the new show he will soon have all to himself - which will also be Series 2's story arc.
Davies had planned a story with lethal versions of TV game shows for a while. It is a very New Adventures concept, and could easily have found a home in the show back in the McCoy / Cartmel era. Indeed, both The Happiness Patrol and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy feature deadly talent contests.
Sadly, Eccleston's departure from the series had been made public way back just after his first appearance, so viewers were denied a surprise regeneration. Tennant had been a life-long fan of the show and had just starred in RTD's Casanova, and everyone was recommending the young Scot to Davies as the next Doctor. Davies is on record as saying that had Eccleston not decided to leave at the end of the first series, he might have had Rose depart. There is a ready-made companion in waiting on show here - Lynda. Instead, she suffers a heartbreaking demise. It is a remarkable death scene. The Doctor has promised to keep her safe. She is in a sealed off room monitoring the movement of the Daleks through the station when suddenly a trio float up outside the window. We don't hear what they say, but the dome lights blink out the word "Ex-ter-mi-nate" and they shatter the glass. Poor Lynda with a Y.

In the past, Dalek stories were always hampered by the obvious lack of props available to represent armies. We had to make do with flat photo blow-ups to swell numbers, or watch as the same four Daleks went round the back of the camera a few times to make it look like there were dozens of them coming through a doorway. The paucity of Daleks is at its most extreme in the concluding episode of Day of the Daleks, when it is obvious there are just the three of them. Vast armies of Daleks were confined to our imaginations, or the pages of TV Comic. Now, finally, we get to see a huge Dalek fleet of comic-like saucers, and thousands of Daleks emerge floating through space to attack the Station. The CGI doesn't quite stretch to showing us the attack on Earth. That's dealt with on some monitors, as the continents are melted out of shape. Ironically, there are just a a few Dalek props here as well, but split screen work multiplies their numbers.
Rose's return to Earth, to have a tantrum in a fast food outlet, does rather break the flow of the final episode, but it does finally resolve the Bad Wolf story arc.
This series has had a lot of very emotional moments - which some fans have not liked as they think them manipulative. I defy anyone to watch the Doctor's hologram message to Rose and not be moved - especially when he turns and appears to look right at her.
Story Arc points: 

  • As I mentioned last time, under Boom Town, this has been by far the most successful of all the story arcs - in that it gripped the wider media. It wasn't just fans who were keen to know. Turns out it's Rose herself - at least one inhabited by the Temporal Vortex. Bad Wolf Rose will be back.
  • The events on Satellite 5 from The Long Game are seen to have had repercussions.
  • The Daleks appear to be totally destroyed, but we know now of at least two lots that have escaped the Time War - the lone one from earlier in the series and the Emperor.
  • The Extrapolator from Boom Town is used to create a force-field protecting the upper floors of the Station.
  • First ever mention of a deadlock seal, which the sonic screwdriver can't open.
  • One of the questions in The Weakest Link mentions Torchwood...

Overall, a remarkable conclusion to what has been a remarkable series. No-one knew just how well the revamped show might have worked. It could have been a total flop. 11 years later, we're impatiently waiting for Series 10 to begin, and the third spin-off series is just about to launch. A lot of this is down to Bad Wolf, and especially to Christopher Eccleston - who was a fantastic Doctor. Such a shame he can't be lured back.
Things you might like to know:
  • Jo Stone-Fewing, who plays the male programmer, had just been in one of RTD's last series - Mine All Mine. This featured "Dalek Supreme" John Scott Martin in one of his final TV roles. Martin offered his services as a Dalek wrangler for the new series.
  • Jo Joyner - the nearly companion Lynda - went on to become a mainstay of Eastenders.
  • Rose's obnoxious fellow competitor Rodrick is played by Patterson Joseph, whose name continually features when new Doctors are about to be announced.
  • I have always had a slight problem with the cause of the Doctor's regeneration. Rose holds the Vortex for a considerable amount of time, and is a mere human. She's up on her feet minutes later. The Doctor takes it only briefly, and is a Time Lord, yet it kills him. Doesn't seem quite right.
  • There's an unseen adventure mentioned. After dropping off Margaret Slitheen's egg, the travellers have been to medieval Kyoto.
  • Doctor Who novels are referenced amongst the Weakest Link questions.
  • The production team managed to secure the real presenters of all three game shows featured, to provide voices. Davina McCall is the Davina-Droid for Big Brother. Ann Robinson voices the Ann-Droid, and Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine voice their robot counterparts.
  • The female Controller (Martha Cope) is connected up to the Station's systems by thick piping. When she is transmatted away we see that this has a hexagonal pattern to it. This is a visual reference to the original Dalek Emperor from Evil of the Daleks
  • Cope is the daughter of actor Kenneth Cope, who had appeared in Warrior's Gate during Tom Baker's final season, and is best known for his ghostly appearances in cult detective series Randall and Hopkirk. Tom Baker had a recurring role in its short-lived remake.
  • The new Emperor - a model made by Mike Tucker's team - has black-domed bodyguards floating around it. Black domed Imperial Guards also featured in Evil of the Daleks.
  • Bad Wolf attempts to keep the appearance of the Daleks a surprise - quite unsuccessfully. First of all, Daleks were shown in the "Next Time" teaser at the end of the previous episode. Then we clearly hear the Dalek Heartbeat sound effect when Rose finds herself on their ship. You can clearly see Dalek reflections on the wall when Rose wakes up, and when the Controller is killed - the extermination effect being the same as that seen in Dalek.
  • The Dalek saucers are a homage to those 1960's TV Comic strips. Those who like to watch the DVDs with the new CGI effects will have seen them in action already in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Purists are weirdly content to stick with the pastry cutters dangling on strings in front of a photo of the Houses of Parliament. Sadly, the new CGI on that DVD hasn't corrected the Doctor and Ian looking at totally different parts of the sky...
  • That Extrapolator will be seen again. However, it seems to get left behind on the station. There is no time for the Doctor to disconnect it and bring it onto the ship.
  • Apparently it took nearly a year of negotiations to use Big Brother in this. The other two series referenced already belonged to the BBC. Once Endemol were on board, however, they were right behind it - allowing a remix of the music and the new logo with the starfield behind it. Then broadcasters, Channel 4, were referenced as this version is screening on Channel 44000. It is still struggling on in the UK, on Channel 5. The regular version is watched by no-one - so no new non-entities have been sprung on the popular media. The "celebrity" version does have a handful of viewers I'm told.
  • The big red chair we see the Doctor sit in was sold to Channel 4 and used in subsequent series of Big Brother.
  • It is said that Rose was going to be killed by the Vortex energy had Eccleston stayed on. However, Davies has always said that he would never kill the audience-identifying companion, and so her demise might have been a fake ending for preview versions of the finale. Had Rose been written out at the end of the first series, her departure would probably have been more akin to Donna's - in that the Vortex had damaged her and she had to lose all her memories of travelling with the Doctor to save her life.
  • John Barrowman celebrated his birthday on his penultimate day of filming - with the Trin-E and Zu-Zana robots (inhabited by Paul Kasey and Alan Ruscoe, who was also inside the Ann-Droid). He was given a remote-controlled Dalek as a gift. There was much argument about whether or not to show his naked posterior on prime time telly. Barrowman and Davies wanted it to be inflicted on the nation - nay, the world. The BBC said no. Another good reason to keep paying the licence fee.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

A is for... Arnold, Staff Sgt.

A member of the army unit assigned to the Goodge Street fortress when London was hit by a strange dense fog. Anyone venturing into this was later found dead, smothered in a choking web substance. The city centre was evacuated. The fortress was constructed during World War II, and was built into the side of the London Underground network. The web began to take over the Underground. Arnold discovered Jamie and Victoria wandering in the tunnels and took them to the fortress, where they were reunited with Professor Travers, whom they had met in Tibet some decades before. He told them that the Great Intelligence had once more decided to attack the Earth. A new generation of Yeti were roaming the tunnels and the streets above. At one point Arnold went missing with his troops. He reappeared later, the sole survivor.
It soon became clear that someone amongst the fortress personnel was under the influence of the Intelligence - acting against the Doctor's efforts to defeat the alien entity. They planted Yeti control models in people's pockets - targeting them for attack - and they opened the fortress doors to let the web enter.
The Intelligence wanted to drain the Doctor's knowledge. He reprogrammed a Yeti sphere and placed it in a captured Yeti, which he planned to use to help him to reverse the draining machine - so that it would be the Intelligence that was drained.
At Piccadilly Underground station, the Doctor and his friends finally met the person who had become host to the Intelligence - and this proved to be Arnold. Failing to tell his companions what his plan was, they attacked the Intelligence's machine. It was ejected into space, and Arnold was killed - his body burned up.

Played by: Jack Woolgar. Appearances: The Web of Fear (1968).

A is for... Aridians

Amphibious inhabitants of the planet Aridius. This world used to be covered in oceans, but its orbit brought it closer to its twin suns and the seas boiled away. Now the planet is a desert, and the Aridians live in an underground city. They are preyed upon by carnivorous Mire Beasts. These creatures used to live in the slime at the bottom of the oceans, but now they are breaking into the city. Large sections have had to be blocked off to stop their spread. The Doctor and his companions arrived on the planet and found that they were being hunted by a Dalek death squad, who had a time machine of their own. Some Aridians were forced to dig the TARDIS out after it had been buried by a sandstorm. They were exterminated after they had completed their work. The Daleks then forced the Aridians to hand over the Doctor and his friends. If they failed to do so, their city would be destroyed. The time travelers escaped when Mire Beasts broke into the part of the city where they were being held. They fled the planet in the TARDIS, and the Daleks followed - leaving the Aridians to fight their losing battle against the encroaching Mire Beasts.

Played by: Ian Thompson, Hywel Bennett, Al Raymond. Appearances: The Chase (1965).

  • The Aridians feature in the second episode only - The Death of Time.
  • Clips from this episode are often shown in those "before they were famous" shows, as Hywel Bennett would go on to have a highly successful acting career.

A is for... Argolins

A highly advanced race from the planet Argolis. They had evolved from plant-life. In the mid 23rd Century they went to war with the reptilian Foamasi. The war lasted mere minutes, but Argolis was blasted with deadly radiation. This rendered the race sterile. In order to fund research into their plight, and to foster peaceful relations between alien races, the Argolins set up the Leisure Hive. This entertainments complex used the science of Tachyonics to create its attractions. Argolins have long life spans, but when they are dying the process is very rapid. Seed-like pods on their craniums drop off as they die. The son of leader Morix was Pangol. His existence surprised everyone, as he appeared to have been born after the war. His mother, Mena, revealed that he was created by the Recreation Generator - from genetic material belonging to the whole race. Pangol harboured ambitions to turn Argolis into a military super-power once more. He planned to recreate himself to form a huge army. Unfortunately for him, the Doctor had sneaked into the Generator, and it was he who was copied. Re-entering the Generator with his dying mother, Pangol was regressed into a baby - whilst Mena was rejuvenated. The Argolin race would survive by rejuvenation, giving them the time needed to cure their sterility.
A female Argolin was one of the visitors to the Iceworld complex, visited by the Seventh Doctor and Mel.

Played by: David Haig (Pangol), Adrienne Corri (Mena), Laurence Payne (Morix). Appearances: The Leisure Hive (1980), Dragonfire (1987).

A is for... Areta

An inhabitant of the planet Varos. Areta was the wife of a young man named Jondar who had discovered the luxury in which the elite lived, compared to the downtrodden miners. When he tried to speak out, he was branded a rebel and imprisoned. Areta arranged for a friend named Rondel, a member of the guard corps, to rescue him. The attempt failed, but Jondar and Areta were helped by the arrival of the Sixth Doctor and Peri. Areta was captured and, along with Peri, forced to take part in one of scientist Quillam's experiments. Both were subjected to a transmogrifying beam which turned them into animals which reflected their personalities. Areta began to turn into a lizard. She was saved by the Doctor and Jondar. Areta was with the Doctor when he defeated Quillam and the Chief Officer. With higher prices paid for their Zeiton 7 ore, life on Varos would have been much better after the Doctor's intervention.

Played by: Geraldine Alexander. Appearances: Vengeance on Varos (1985).