Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Normal service (hopefully) resumed shortly...

Just to say that I have still not got broadband set up at the new chez moi, so unable to post as frequently as I would like at this time. Should all be up and running by Thursday this week (fingers crossed).
Meanwhile, Series 8 will continue this Saturday evening with Into The Dalek. A few new photos released. The coverage in the Radio Times today includes a brief piece looking at the history of the Daleks.
The story will also see the introduction of Clara's new flame - Danny Pink - who works alongside her at Coal Hill School.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Deep Breath - Review

A very enjoyable episode, I thought. Great start for the more mercurial Peter Capaldi Doctor.
Let me get my one big gripe out of the way first, however. What is this obsession with changing the arrangement of the theme music every five minutes? Love the new graphics, but the whiney new music is terrible. Did Murray get a theramin for his Christmas? Hope they kept the receipt...
A sequel of sorts to Girl in the Fireplace. Well, actually a sideways story - repair 'droids from the Pompadour's sister ship - the SS Marie Antoinette. There is obviously a serious design flaw with repair robots in the 51st Century.
The 80 minute story length gave all of the key players space to shine. The Paternoster Gang were particularly well served - each of the trio getting considerable screen time. Laughed out loud at Strax delivering The Times.
As with previous regeneration stories where the companion crosses over from one Doctor to the next, a lot of the story is about Clara's resistance / acceptance. Lovely performance from Jenna Coleman. Hopefully we will now see both character and actor really come out from under the shadow of Amy / Karen Gillan.
Special effects were wonderful, though some of the green screen work was a little too obvious - such as the new Doctor's rooftop scenes.
I was particularly impressed with Peter Ferdinando, playing the Half-Faced Man. Despite having to play a monotonous robot, he did very well with what could have been a thankless role.
Moffat had earlier informed us that we would shortly find out the identity of the woman who had given Clara the Doctor's phone number in The Bells of Saint John. I had assumed this would turn out to be River Song, but it proves to be the mad NetherRegions lady - who we weren't expecting until the finale.
Nice to see Brian Miller given a role (as the tramp). Lis Sladen's widower, who has appeared in the show before in the Peter Davison era, as well as appearing alongside Lis in the Sarah Jane Adventures.
Quite a few Sherlock Holmes references - the Camberwell Poisoner, "The game's afoot..." etc.
There was definitely a hint of that other Holmes about the proceedings - Robert that is. A very dark, often gruesome story (a balloon made from stitched together human flesh and so forth). No doubt many will argue that the programme is moving too far from the younger audience demographic.
Not everyone will agree that Matt Smith should have been given a cameo in this. Does the new Doctor really need the endorsement of his predecessor? I didn't mind this bit too much, as I think it will help any younger viewers who did manage not to be ordered to bed - and those newer fans not as used to there being older Doctors - to accept the new guy.
And what of the new Doctor? I am sure Colin Baker was gnashing his teeth watching this. "That's how my darker Doctor should have been handled!"
I can understand where this new Doctor is coming from - as I share his Scottishness. I do the complaining and the explosive reaction to the slightest irritation.(Just read some of my previous posts...).
Quite mad - initially - and apparently about to erupt in fury at any moment, I am personally glad that we have an older and more abrasive Doctor. Quite shocking when he appeared to abandon Clara in the spaceship - you really felt that he might actually mean it. And did the Half-Faced Man jump or was he pushed? Pushed - definitely.
I'm really looking forward to seeing Peter Capaldi settle into the role. Let's see how he reacts to his oldest enemies next week...

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Figurine Collection - August 2014

Just to say first of all that I moved house over the weekend - hence the lack of updates in the last week. Also, my broadband won't be set up until three days before Series 8 commences, so you won't hear much from me until then.
Latest figurines arrived yesterday. Last month I was pointing out how good the likeness of John Hurt was, in comparison with some of the previous characters. This month the Ninth Doctor is also rather well rendered. He is wearing his blue jumper, and the associated story in the magazine is Boom Town. Let's hope this improvement continues. I haven't seen any previews of other "humanoid" figures so can't judge at this time. (Up-coming are the Morbius Monster, the Earthshock Cyberleader and the Ironside Dalek which I have seen - as well as the next Special Edition release of the Cyber-King, which is getting a lot of negative feedback. Not so much about what it looks like, just that there are far more popular things to concentrate on than this - especially from the Classic Series).
Accompanying the Ninth Doctor is one of the Scarecrows from Human Nature / Family of Blood. Hard to go wrong with something like this. Nice that they have got it's awkward gait captured - lurching forward. Ailsa Berk will be pleased...

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Know Your Daleks - Miscellany...

"TARDISes are blue. This is red. Get it wrong again, Dalek Dave, and you will be dead!!!"
Hope you enjoyed my recent series of posts looking at the evolution of the Daleks over the years. There were a few things that I couldn't quite fit in, so here is the miscellany - or the apocrypha...

"It's Lord Kitchener I tell you, Barbara!" "No it can't be, it's a naked Dutchman..."
1. Dalek Art
In the first Dalek story we see that their city has some works of art on view. The statue which the Doctor and his philistine companions shove down the lift shaft is either what the Daleks think a general on horseback is, or a nude gentleman / lady - or it is perhaps a remnant of the previous Kaled culture and nothing to do with Daleks.

Dalek poetry includes the epic "Daleks Conquer And Destroy" - comprises only this line repeated, but one recital lasted for 43 days - and the lyrical "Exterminate, Exterminate, Exterminate". The most moving piece I have ever heard was "Where have all the puppies and kittens gone? Incinerated by the might of Dalek fire-power, of course!!!"
I cry every time I hear it...

Daleks are not without a sense of humour. A recent poll conducted on Skaro found that 100% of the population voted the following their favourite joke:
Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: In a feeble attempt to escape being exterminated by the Daleks!!!

Least favourite joke on Skaro?
Q: Knock, knock.
A: Who's there?
Q: Doctor....

"Don't you see, Codal. It's from Habitat. This is more serious than I thought!"
2. Dalek Furniture.
At the height of the Dalek empire, they tended to shop at Habitat. Probably didn't pay, just invaded the shop, exterminated all the staff and took what they fancied. I suspect that the New Paradigm probably favour Ikea, whilst the RTD era ones prefer Argos or Homebase...
In Planet of the Daleks we see a nice Habitat coat stand, on which you can hang prisoner's guns etc. Later in the story a barricade is made that appears to include a table. Quite what the Daleks need with tables I do not know...

The Seventh Doctor tries to cut in...
3. Dalek Discos.
Off duty, Daleks like nothing better than having a knees-up. Even though they do not actually have knees... Whilst dancing tends to be a pretext to people getting to know each other in more intimate ways here on Earth, on Skaro the Daleks are happy just to dance round their handbags.

"You will show us the Kylie Minogue one next!!!"
4. Dalek Television.
It is a well known fact that the Daleks have all 7 episodes of Evil of the Daleks. And the whole of The Daleks' Master Plan (including The Feast of Steven). They downloaded these adventures directly from the Doctor's mind. Naturally, their favourite story is Victory of the Daleks. Someone's got to like it...

"Left. Left. Left. Too far! Right. Right. Too far...! "
Reception on Skaro can be poor. Special TV Antenna Daleks have been developed in order to get Sky Sports. Most popular programmes tend to be soap operas and home shopping channels. And Duck Dynasty...

"Fifty quid he'll laugh his arse off when he defrosts..."
5. Dalek Hats.
One of the first things that the Cult of Skaro devised after being created by the Emperor was that all Dalek slave soldiers should wear distinctive Dalek-shaped hats. Dalek Caan insisted that these should be sent back through all of Dalek history and not just be confined to the Time War. When his next idea was that Daleks should all travel backwards to fool their enemies into thinking they were retreating, the Emperor realised he had a right bunch of numpties here, and so tricked them into entering this nice roomy Void Ship...

The Daleks' attempt to raise money for dyslexia research was unsuccessful. Maybe it was the sign "Daily Sex. Please Give Generously" that was the problem... 
6. Dalek Philanthropy.
Doesn't happen. Move on...

"You would make a good Dalek..."
7. Dalek Justice.
Basically, you get exterminated. Even if you have done nothing wrong. Doing nothing wrong is a capital offence on Skaro - on a par with being nice. In the image above, the Daleks make a citizen's arrest when they encounter someone flashing at some nuns outside the local Lyons Tea House.

8. Dalek Childhood.
A scene from a typical Dalek household. (Just love this picture I came across on Google Images. Had to use it).

"No! You cannot have an iced lolly. I shall be obeyed! Daleks must always be obeyed!!! You will have a nutritious piece of fruit and like it!!! And do not touch my gun.! I see you reaching for my gun!!! Desist! Desist. Desist!!!!!! "
Daleks also make good child care workers. Only about 40% of children in their care have ever been exterminated - which is marginally better than some Ofsted approved nurseries...

9. Dalek Sec(s)...
After their defeat on Exxilon, a Dalek top shelf magazine was found. The following images are the only ones I can safely publish. Parental guidance essential...

Disgusting, I'm sure you'll agree... I've spared you the one featuring Mrs Mabel Oldthwaite of Accrington, her Airedale Terrier, and the bowl of rice pudding...

10. UKIP.
In 2019 this man will accidentally create a time storm in his bedroom whist stabbing pins into a doll of President Milliband. He will find himself on Skaro. After an accident with a nuclear missile that consigns him to a wheelchair, he'll develop an idea about creating a new half machine - half mutant life-form... 
Ever wondered what happened to the duplicates from Resurrection of the Daleks? The ones that were supposed to infiltrate and subvert British society? The ones that the Doctor assured his companions were unstable? I think we now know the answer. Xenophobic. A dislike for the unlike... I rest my case.

11. Dalek Dreams...
Daleks are far from unimaginative. Whilst taking a break from trying to conquer the Universe, they do dream of another life...
Instead of the monstrous alien alliance members that the Supreme was expecting, he imagined who he would really like to come to his birthday party that weekend.
On Friday, the Oncoming Storm had invited them over for lunch, and then they would watch the Wimbledon coverage and maybe go for dinner at that little place out near Teddington by the Thames. The Daleks liked the Thames. One of them had glided up out of it once. That had been fun. Andy Murray was playing at Wimbledon. The Daleks liked him as well. He was one of their duplicates after all... In contemplative mood, the Supreme Dalek decided not to exterminate the photographer from Titbits magazine after all. Perhaps future generations would like to know what his colour scheme might be. Perhaps a company that was one day going to create a figurine of him. He could but dream...

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Story 108 - The Horns of Nimon

In which the Doctor decides to carry out some repairs to the TARDIS. He parks the ship in what he thinks is a quiet region of space and dismantles most of the key components - including the defences. There is another craft nearby, however, and it is exerting a massive gravitational force. The TARDIS is drawn towards it. The Doctor, Romana and K9 cross over to the vessel, which is damaged and drifting. On board, they discover a group of young people from the planet Aneth, as well as a cargo of Hymetusite crystals. It is these which have caused the gravitational effect. On the bridge there is only the Co-Pilot alive. In order to reach their homeworld of Skonnos earlier than scheduled he has encouraged his Pilot to push the antiquated ship's engines too far - wrecking them and killing the Pilot in the process. He explains that the young people and the crystals are being taken to Skonnos as a form of tribute owed by Aneth. The Doctor and K9 return to the TARDIS to fetch equipment, as they have worked out how the crystals can be used to reactivate the ship. Romana is left on board to carry out the work. As soon as power is restored to the engines, the treacherous Co-Pilot gets under way, with Romana still aboard. The Doctor and K9 see the ship depart, then discover a giant asteroid heading directly towards them - drawn here by the gravitational force. The Doctor cannot dematerialise, and there are no defences.

He spins the ship, knocking the asteroid away into space. He must then carry out temporary repairs to get the ship moving again, in order to pursue Romana. She has arrived on Skonnos and meets the ruler - a scientist named Soldeed. He realises that the Co-Pilot is lying when he claims to have used the crystal to re-power the ship. He simply doesn't have the intelligence. His actions have jeopardised Soldeed's great plan to re-establish the Skonnon Empire. Romana finds that she and the young Anethans are to enter the Power Complex with the crystals - and she realises this is some form of sacrifice. The Co-Pilot is forced to join them. They come upon a room full of dessicated corpses - the remains of previous tributes. They are then confronted by a huge bull-like alien - the Nimon. It destroys the Co-Pilot. It transpires that Skonnos once had a great empire which has long since declined. The Nimon arrived and promised to restore the planet to its' former glory. The Skonnons are obliged to supply a number of young people and the Hymetusite crystals - both of which they coerce from neighbouring Aneth.

The Doctor finally arrives and follows Romana into the Power Complex. K9 is captured by Soldeed. Romana has managed to escape capture by the Nimon, along with two of the Anethans - Seth and Teka. Teka sees Seth as a hero who will free Aneth from Skonnon tyranny, but he is really just an ordinary teenager who has made some rash claims. Soldeed enters the Complex in pursuit of the Doctor. He is horrified to see that there are actually several Nimon present. He believed there to be only one lord. The Nimon are a parasitical race who establish an emissary on a victim planet, who promises great wealth / power. Young people and Hymetusite are asked for in return. The life-force of the youngsters is fed upon, whilst the crystals fuel equipment which creates an artificial Black Hole. This is a link to the planet previously conquered by the Nimon. As it dies, they travel to the new world in egg-shaped pods - starting the whole process over. Romana is accidentally transported to Crinoth - the planet currently inhabited by the Nimon. It is on the brink of destruction. She meets Sezom who, like Soldeed, had been fooled into allowing the Nimon to gain a foothold on his planet. He sacrifices himself to get Romana back to Skonnos - giving her a crystal which can destroy the Nimon. Soldeed is killed by Seth, but he activates a power overload as he dies. The Power Complex explodes - leaving the Nimon trapped on the dying Crinoth. Seth and Teka return to Skonnos with the freed tributes.

This four part adventure was written by one-time script editor Anthony Read, and was broadcast between 22nd December 1979 and 12th January 1980. As well as marking the (premature) end of Season 17, this generally unloved story is significant for a number of reasons.
It is the last story to be produced by Graham Williams; the last story to script edited by Douglas Adams; the last story to be scored by Dudley Simpson. It sees the last outing for the classic time tunnel opening titles and the Delia Derbyshire theme arrangement.
David Brierley voices K9 for the final time. And Tom baker says goodbye to his iconic multi-coloured scarf.
Of course, all these momentous events were never supposed to coincide with this story. There was supposed to be Shada...
When he was script editing, Read had helped steer the programme away from the Gothic horror tastes of Hinchcliffe and Holmes - especially the Universal and Hammer movie version of Gothic. Read and Williams looked to literature for inspiration. Underworld had been based on the Jason and the Argonauts myth, and in this story Read adapts the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur.
The Nimon is, naturally, the Minotaur. Soldeed is Daedalus - architect of the Labyrinth (the Power Complex). Seth is Theseus who would become king of Athens (Aneth). Teka's name derives from Attica. Skonnos is Knossos. Crinoth is Corinth.

As with the preceding story, there is a good tale trying to be told. Most of the problems with The Horns of Nimon are superficial. The design of the monsters is laughable. The crew at the time believed that the bull heads were going to be helmets - but proved to be the final version of the creatures. There are some dreadful performances - especially Graham Crowden's OTT Soldeed. Future Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis (Teka) is no actor. The humour is embarrassing at times (the sound effects when the TARDIS goes wrong a prime example). Then there is the Co-Pilot's infamous split trousers (see image above).
The Co-Pilot is played by the normally reliable Malcolm Terris. Best performance comes from John Bailey (The Sensorites and Evil of the Daleks). He plays Sezom. There is a good performance from Simon Gipps-Kent as Seth.
Episode endings are:
  1. The defenceless TARDIS is in the path of an approaching asteroid...
  2. The Co-Pilot is killed by the Nimon, who then turns its attention to Romana and the Anethans...
  3. Soldeed destroys the controls which the Doctor was about to operate. Wherever she is, he cannot bring Romana back...
  4. The Doctor tells Romana about he time he helped Theseus on Crete, then resumes the TARDIS repairs.

Overall, don't blame Anthony Read too much for this. It's the production values and guest performances that let this down so badly. Its broadcast over the Christmas period have always brought the word "pantomime" to mind. In the recent DWM 50th Anniversary poll, this did not rest at the bottom of the Tom Baker stories, but it was third least popular at number 223 out of 241. You hate Meglos and that other Greek myth inspired story Underworld even more.
Things you might like to know:
  • Janet Ellis has another connection to Doctor Who - in that her dad (Mike Ellis) worked on the visual effects for the show. She interviewed him for Blue Peter - the clip is an extra on the DVD of Trial of a Time Lord 1 - 4. 
  • Sadly, the gifted Simon Gipps-Kent died at the tragically young age of 28, from drug misuse. He was rarely off British TV screens in the 1970's - mainly in children's drama (including The Tomorrow People). One of his most popular roles is as the orphan Stephen in the seriously scary 1973 BBC adaptation of MR James' Lost Hearts.
  • Douglas Adams had originally tried to recruit all-new writing talent for this season (including stories from ex-producer Philip Hinchcliffe, and director Pennant Roberts), but his plans came to nothing. Read's script was the only workable one available as the clock ticked down. Graham Williams deliberately kept the story to be made and shown in the fifth story slot as he quickly realised it was weak, and he hoped that it would be rapidly forgotten once viewers had seen Shada. Oh, the irony...
  • The spaceship which Seth and Teka use to fly home was actually painted white - in keeping with the Theseus myth - but the lighting is such that it doesn't look much different from the spaceship as seen in the opening episodes. (Theseus had agreed with his father to hoist a white sail to show if he had succeeded. He forgot to do this, and his dad killed himself - thinking his son dead).
  • Officially, the plural of Nimon is Nimons. Check the net and this is generally ignored. Personally, I also favour Nimon as both the singular and plural name for the race.
  • Whilst the Nimon have mercifully never returned to the programme, the Minotaur in The God Complex is said to be a close relative.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Symphonic Spectacular

Do you know what you'll be doing on 23rd May next year? I do...
Last year I didn't have much luck obtaining tickets for the anniversary events. I was on holiday and away from a computer when the November convention tickets went on sale. By the time I tried to get any, they were sold out.
The day the Prom tickets went on sale, the computer crashed.
If you look at most websites which have announced the Symphonic Spectacular tour, which visits several UK cities in late May next year, you'll have read that tickets go on sale as of Friday morning (1st August). However, if you first read the news on the doctorwhonews website, you'll have noted that See Tickets are selling them from today - so this afternoon I bought mine.
3pm on 23rd May 2015 will see me sat in row T of the Wembley Arena. Come and say hello if you're there that day.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Know Your Daleks - No.8

The Smith Years.
The last instalment of this handy guide to the Daleks ended with the entire race being wiped out - again... How would they be brought back for Series 5? Very badly, it turns out.
Things start out well with the introduction of the Ironsides. Basically bronze Daleks in khaki camouflage, and with webbing pouches and a little Union flag where the name tag is usually to be seen. I like the little blackout covers for their dome lights. The Daleks have invented a robot copy of Prof Bracewell and programmed him to believe that he invented them. At least I think it is a copy of a real person. Would Churchill employ someone with no history so close to his war cabinet - no matter how good his ideas?
Actually, it isn't clear where the Ironside Daleks have come from. Are they survivors of the Emperor's fleet (from Parting of the Ways), or are they survivors from the destruction of the Crucible? The Progenitor does not recognise them as Daleks - they need the Doctor's oral testimony that they are who they claim to be. This might be explained if they were Emperor survivors - as they had human DNA traces. However, the Crucible Daleks came directly from Davros - a Kaled - so surely recognisably Dalek?
Depends on what you think of Davros. In Destiny, the Movellans described him as a "Kaled Mutant" - so perhaps not pure Kaled.

Once the Doctor has (quite clumsily) shouted out that the Daleks are indeed Daleks, the Progenitor activates. Apparently there used to be lots of these little pepper-pot things, but now this is the last one. The Progenitor creates a whole new bunch of Daleks - the New Paradigm - and this is where things start to go awry.
The Dalek is a design classic. The New Paradigm take that wonderful design and trash it. Instead of war-ready, bolted, bronze bodies, they now look like they are made of plastic. The profile is all wrong - they've now gone hatchback. There are 5 new Daleks - each of a different colour. The Supreme is white, the drone red. The others (Plastics, Tins and Mixed Paper & Cardboard) are yellow, orange and blue.
Reaction to the new design was not mixed. It was fairly heavily anti. It is to be noted that they have been shoved into the background of late, with the RTD bronze Daleks dominating the last few stories they have featured in.

The Paradigm make a brief return as part of the Pandorica Alliance.

The white Supreme casing then appears in The Big Bang now transformed into a stone Dalek. Earlier petrified by the unravelling of the Universe, the light from the Pandorica animates this museum exhibit.

Series 6 only features a cameo from one of the New Paradigm, at the beginning of The Wedding of River Song.

And so we come to Asylum of the Daleks. More Daleks than you can shake a Perigosto Stick at. Just a shame we don't really get to see the classic series models. The Asylum is populated mostly with bronze Daleks. There's the odd New Paradigm. Classic models such as the Special Weapons and RTD's personal copy of a 1970's version just don't get any screen time. Biggest disappointment is the Intensive Care Unit - where we are specifically told that these are the Daleks which have encountered the Doctor. Despite having versions of the real thing to put on show, they're all bronze ones. The "Oswin Dalek" is yet another bronze model - with a big chain draped over it.

Bronze Daleks make up the bulk of the Parliament. The New Paradigm Daleks have had a respray - the paintwork is now metallic so they look less like they are made out of plastic.

The Prime Minister is simply a Dalek mutant in a glass tank.

As we are back into the Time War, only the bronze Daleks are to be seen in Day of the Doctor. One thing of note, however, is the pilots of the flying gunships. They have black domes - like the Emperor's personal guards of the Eccleston finale.

When the Radio Times put Doctor Who on its cover early in December 2013, the Doctor was pictured standing in the doorway of the TARDIS flanked by New Paradigm Daleks. When we got to see the last Christmas Special, however, it was more bronze versions which predominated. Time of the Doctor also featured a new Dalek weapon - a massive version of their own exterminators.
And that's the story so far. The recently released trailer for Series 8 shows that the Daleks will be back fairly soon. And guess what? It'll be the bronze ones yet again...