THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS
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Ten Apocryphal Adventures by Rob Matthews 18/11/03

Should those folks at Big Finish ever wish to start up their own little series of Iris Wildthyme adventures (variations on the meddlesome hussy to be played by Katy Manning, Janet Fielding, Julie Walters, Lynda Baron and Joanna Lumley):

  1. The Dudley Assassin
    With Dudley destined to become a major world power of the far future, and its favourite son Ebsq Ingiga-Pilcaro a major frock designer at the stylish heart of the Earth Empire, it's essential that these character assassinations of a local pub landlord in the 1950s be brought to a a halt. Should burly war veteran Ronald Pilchard finally get hacked off at all these 'watered-down' remarks and finally make that long-pondered move to Swindon, a historically vital bloodline will be diverted and Ingiga-Pilcaro will end up a mere galactic down-and-out living outside a transgalactic wholesale supermarket and harbouring an itchy preponderance of unmentionable fetishes. And with the Trans-Temporal Adventuress of the Millennium Awards coming up on the gentrified planet Telos, the ensuing lack of fabulous seven-dimensional couture would put a severe crimp in Iris's evening.
  2. The Basque of Mandragora Victoria's secret: the stitching on her new lingerie collection is indestructible because... it's made from pure evil! Or 'sheer mardiness' as Iris disparagingly refers to it. With the Mandragora Helix now teamed up with top knicker peddler Victoria Felix, and the Nestene consciousness waiting in the wings with an even more sordid scheme of plastic proliferation, The Hotel on the Rim of a Black Hole is in for a very busy Valentine's weekend... 'Is that a rupture in your pocket dimension or are you just pleased to see me?'
  3. The Croutons
    A diabolical race of aliens formed of sentient crunchy bread plot an invasion of Earth operated from a small powdered soup factory in Newton Ayecliffe. Iris must team up with the local WI to bake an enormous doughnut that will function as a dimensional portal to channel an army of super-evolved benevolent cupcakes. A media frenzy surrounding a charity nudie calender (all thirteen Irises - two for December) mildly disrupts their task. With the voice of Terry Wogan as a world-weary eclair.
  4. Disco Inferno
    A drilling operation in Northumberland inadvertently releases a glittery pink goo from deep within the earth. Once ingested, this heady ooze with its irresistible aroma of strawberries and gin attacks the central nervous system and causes terrible, lethal outbreaks of hip-swivelling, threatening both the health of a largely elderly local community and the triggering of an imminent critical mass of nostalgia shows of the 'Wasn't it brill when we did the Monkey' sort four years down the line. To save a bunch of affected engineers and scientists from making complete prats of themselves at the Mome-Rath Engineering AGM, and halt the appearance of an Ashton Kutcher-faced golden spider atop the web of time, Iris must travel to a parallel dimension where the seventies never ended and flashdance in the harem of Imperator Travoltine, distracting him while the monstrous Eighties (robots in the shape of Iron Ladies) climb in through the windows.
  5. The Curse of Fenwicks
    It's hell doing your Christmas shopping in Newcastle's dullest department store, not least when it's been sundered into eight separate time zones by a breakaway faction of belligerent cider-chugging Daleks in hooded tops. 'Well, aisles be damned!' Iris exclaims. And is that nice Mr Magistrato who plays the store's Santa really the Master in disguise? Or does Iris have it all arse about tit once again?
  6. The Dead Plant
    Iris's best pal Fuschia Chronotis leaves her in charge of the last surviving piece of Martian foliage, the Evergreen Blossom of Horus, sole survivor from a more verdant age for the red planet. Iris's effeminate new Thal companion Trixie - from the Peter Cushing version of Skaro - feels a chill on board the bus, but upon turning the heating up a notch completely kills it. Little did he realise that the plant was the living key to the Prison of Ramxees the Deathly, and as its final petal withers Ramxees escapes from its interdimensional snare and sets about causing havoc. A series of scuffles with colossal robotic sphinxes and poisonous scarabs ensue, until Iris finally realises that only her old mate Cleopatra can sort this one out...
  7. Trousersnakedance
    Racist, sexist movie pioneer D.W. Griffiths once snappily proclaimed that all you need to make a movie is a gun and a girl. Had it occured to him, he would surely have gone on to mention that all you need to make a Flash-animated Iris Wildthyme adventure is a hen night in Darlington, a scantily-clad Chris Cwej, and a tricky situation over a five pound note nicked from the Graf Vynda C.
  8. Paradise Towels
    As if the Mandrils didn't have trouble enough, their luxuriant green hides are now being skinned and turned into exorbitantlly expensive luxury towels! Trist, recently paroled and with a hardened attitude and a more ludicrous accent than ever, is now a big fish in the intergalactic fabrics industry, and has some devilish plans for Sontaran-skin wellies, invisible Spiridonian-hide raincoats, and Voord wetsuits. Iris is frankly too wasted on Vraxoin roll-ups to be that arsed about any of this... until Trist's associate, the dreaded Androgum tailor McFlinchy o' the Ersatzmagrs Grig decides to turn her into a small change purse, and make small party snacks out of whatever's left. 'You have the mouth of some prattling canapes!' he informs her rudely.
  9. The Horror of Kroll
    - Iris grapples with a tribe of Jolly Green Giant lookalikes who worship an enormous flatulent squid... nah, that's far too silly.
  10. Iris and the Rani - The glammed-up Rani concocts a nefarious scheme to enslave Time itself, involving Albert Einstein, a huge pink brain, and dressing up as Bonnie Langford... Nah, that's far too camp.


Top 40 Doctor Who Stories by Richard Radcliffe 19/11/03

In this anniversary year, there are surveys galore to be filled in. DWM have the results of one as their special tribute to Who, for example. 40 is the number then - and here's my list of the 40 best stories, in any medium, I have come across in my journeyings through the exciting, imaginative and entertaining worlds of Doctor Who:

40 Genesis of the Daleks Nation TV4 Never been my absolute favourite, but definitely great.

39 The Crusade Whitaker TV1 The best kind of Historical. Informative and challenging.

38 The Daemons Letts TV3 Cosy, family UNIT at its most together.

37 The Burning Richards BK8 A new exciting direction for the 8th Doctor.

36 The Curse of Fenric Briggs TV7 Full of great ideas and superb mythology.

35 Loups-Garoux Platt AUD5 Brilliant performances, fabulous script.

34 Doctor Who and the Pirates Rayner AUD6 Emotional, hugely entertaining Who.

33 Memorial Gray STR7 One off thoughtful story, stacks of meaning.

32 The Voyager Parkhouse STR6 Fantasy Who at its best, best artwork ever.

31 The Horror of Fang Rock Dicks TV4 Inspired Lighthouse setting, claustrophobic.

30 Wolfsbane Rayner BK4&8 Brilliantly using the 8th Dr stuck on Earth. Harry great.

29 The Seeds of Doom Stewart TV4 Excellent 2 parter, very good 4 parter back home.

28 Fellow Travellers Cartmel STR7 Horror Who, great artwork, great story.

27 Human Nature Cornell BK7 Story of the human Doctor, charming.

26 The Two Doctors Holmes TV2&6 Magnificent opening episode, loved the Spanish locale.

25 The English Way of Death Roberts BK4 Lovely to read, went down as smooth as a Galaxy Bar.

24 The Fires of Vulcan Lyons AUD7 Clever time hopping using fascinating history.

23 The Cabinet of Light O'Mahony NOV? Intro of Time Hunter, very Doctorish character.

22 The City of Death Adams TV4 Tom Baker at his most hilarious!

21 The Sands of Time Richards BK5 The best kind of sequel, different Dr, same wonder.

20 Father Time Parkin BK8 Best book from the best story arc DW has ever done.

19 Camera Obscura Rose BK8 Wonderfully Whoish book from best current book writer.

18 Who Killed Kennedy Bishop BK? The best DW spin-off product anyone has come up with.

17 Timewyrm: Exodus Dicks BK7 The best alternative history story, from a great writer.

16 The City of the Dead Rose BK8 A setting has never been a better character than here.

15 Stars Fell On Stockbridge Parkhouse STR5 Quaint, homely, cosy Doctor Who.

14 The Five Doctors Dicks TV12345 A brilliant celebration!

13 The Web of Fear Haisman/Lincoln TV2 Atmospheric and scary, the best isolated base story.

12 Grave Matter Richards BK6 Exceptional Hammer Who Novel.

11 The Caves of Androzani Holmes TV5 Explosive end to a great Doctor.

10 The Adventuress of Henrietta Street Miles BK8 Intro of the brilliant Sabbath, fascinating style of writing.

9 Phantasmagoria Gatiss AUD5 This convinced me Big Finish would be the best Who.

8 Matrix Tucker/Perry BK7 Dark, moody, riveting Who in its best setting.

7 The Spectre of Lanyon Moor Pegg AUD6 Traditional Who at it's best, with Brigadier never better.

6 The Talons of Weng-Chiang Holmes TV4 Plundering the Victorian archives brilliantly.

5 Ghost Light Platt TV7 The best looking, most atmospheric Who production.

4 The Banquo Legacy Richards/Lane BK8 Page turning, spine chillingly brilliant.

3 The Pyramids of Mars Holmes TV4 The perfect grafting of existing myths with Who.

2 Nightshade Gatiss BK7 Nostalgic Who at its best.

1 The Chimes of Midnight Shearman AUD8 The best reason why audio Who is the best Who.


Ten Who-Related Things I Want to Scream at the Mainstream Media by Rob Matthews 28/11/03

What with the fortieth anniversary and the commisioning of a new series, Doctor Who's been in the news a bit lately. Here are ten misconceptions I'd love to clear up before I come out in a rash:

  1. NO-ONE EVER in the history of the entire world watched Doctor Who 'behind the sofa'! Used every single solitary time there's an article about Doctor Who in a mainstream publication, this phrase - dear God, even lovely old Colin Baker has been using it in interviews - is utter, utter, extreme how-hard-can-I-emphasise this --- bollocks!!!, for the simple reason that behind the sofa is precisely where the monsters would hide!
  2. The Daleks COULD go up stairs. Sigh!
  3. Tom Baker's performance involved more than just wearing a really long scarf for seven years.
  4. Actors other than Tom Baker played the Doctor.
  5. The Daleks were in the show comparatively rarely - not 'practically every week' as some stupid bloody book on cult TV claimed on its jacket. A well-researched authoritative voume, clearly.
  6. The show did NOT have 'wobbly walls'. This ones is trotted out with aggravating frequency as well - Russell T Davies even went along with it in a Radio Times interview recently, and it's a complete bunch of arse. Fawlty Towers had wobbly walls but no-one ever mentions it when they're talking about that show. Doctor Who didn't and yet they're regarded as its defining feature, and though I really shouldn't let these things bother me it's all part and parcel of this perma-sneery attitude the media has now, and I'm fucking sick to the back teeth of it. Offhand, the only instance of wobble I can remember in any episode is the TARDIS console's time rotor in Fendahl. Unconvincing effects, yes. Shoddy sets, no.
  7. Sylvester McCoy improved vastly, quickly.
  8. Homosexuals are as capable of writing television serials for general audiences as anyone else, you stupid, stupid fascistic shitheads. (okay, that one's just aimed at The Sun - 'Ducky Who'; oh the hilarity... although Jonathan 'I'm allowed to make homophobic jokes because I've got these queeny old singers on my show' Ross is just as bad).
  9. Erm...
  10. David Gooderson's Davros was much worse than Terry Molloy's, and had no presence at all. Okay, I guess that's more a fan 'misconsensus'.
Well, thanks for reading and sorry about the language, but hopefully at least some of you understand my fannish fury. Ah, I can feel my blood pressure easing already...


Forty years, Forty great stories by Terrence Keenan 14/12/03

Since top 40 lists are in vogue to cash in on the anniversary hype, I might as well jump in with my own version. There are no audios, nor comics in this list, mainly because I haven't explored these formats in depth.

These, for your humble critic, are the ones that are the equivalent of massaging Catherine Zeta Jones's feet while listening to John Coltrane's A Love Supreme on the deck of your beach house in Malibu at sunset. This is as of today, and does not reflect opinions held yesterday or tomorrow.

40. The Aztecs -- there's so many great things in regards to both the story and the performances that it makes you want to watch it over and over again.

39. History 101 -- One of the best debut novels ever, courtesy of Mags L. Halliday. It not only manages to captures the chaos of the Spanish civil war, but also manages to be a great Who story as well.

38. The English Way of Death -- This is the best of the Gareth Roberts Season 17 novels. Equal parts bedroom farce and horror story, EWoD will have you howling in laughter and shuddering in fear at the same time, an amazing feat.

37. Carnival of Monsters -- The best 3rd Doctor/Jo Grant story, written by Robert Holmes. The 3rd Doctor is mellowed and given a much needed sense of humor, while Jo is allowed to be an adult. Add in a couple of double acts (Vorg & Shirna; the Inter-Minoran tribunal) and a strong story and you can't go wrong.

36. The Left Handed Hummingbird -- Another strong debut, this time by Kate Orman. Even a minor misstep (John Lennon's assassination bit), can't wreck a genuinely nerve-wracking and suspenseful novel.

35. The War Games -- The big epic of Serial Who. I can't think of a more awesome moment than the end of episode 9 when the Time Lords make their presence known.

34. Doctor Who and the Silurians -- Is there a darker ending than the Brigadier blowing up the caves? Nope. Toss in a great script, a boatload of brill performances, and some realistic plague scenes and you have a story that holds up well over thirty years later.

33. The Scarlet Empress -- I chose this over the just as worthy Blue Angel because it was the first attempt to really shatter the sci-fi/pulp storytelling trappings that come with every Who novel. Paul Magrs deserves much credit for showing a completely new way of writing a Who story.

32. Transit -- A gleeful, adult, stomping and retreading of the future Who story. Inaccessible and nasty, it defies most readers to read Ben Aaronovitch's masterwork and come along for the ride. Sadly maligned, almost anyone who has written an original Who novel pays its respects to Transit in some fashion.

31. The Ribos Operation -- Possibly the best season opener ever. It takes chutzpah to open a season of stories about a device to save the universe with a tale about a con job. Toss in one helluva debut -- the gorgeous Mary Tamm -- and a stellar cast, stir until hot. The first real example of what the Graham Williams era was all about.

30. The Greatest Show in the Galaxy -- GSitG defies logic, plays by its own rules, owns a distinctive look and is rewarded by a cast running with a strong script. By far both Sylvester McCoy's and Sophie Aldred's shining moment.

29. The Caves of Androzani -- Only Robert Holmes could have possibly taken one of his weaker efforts (The Power of Kroll) and turned into a going away present for Peter Davison. Davison's tour-de-force performance in his last Who serial still causes my jaw to drop with each viewing. There are flaws, but they don't matter all that much, as the emotional impact is what you leave with.

28. Set Piece -- Kate Orman's genuine masterpiece. The only great book Ace story. Set Piece is greater than the sum of its parts. That it also manages to rework negligible book line concepts into something worth caring about is something special.

27. The Banquo Legacy -- Whenever you can scare the pants off a Who reader with a mentally unbalanced woman and one killer corpse, the authors are creating something special. That The Banquo Legacy was a last minute commission from a very old Andy Lane/Justin Richards non-Who story idea is remarkable.

26. Festival of Death -- A laugh riot. A mindfucking, convoluted plot with more twists than Lombard Street. A TARDIS team captured to perfection. Jonathan Morris deserves much praise for this unputdownable, fun, gotta-read-more-than-once book.

25. Revelation of the Daleks -- Eric Saward's weird combination of body horror, macho mercenary send-up and homage to Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One shouldn't work at all, but dammit it does! The best of the Molloy/Davros stories. Colin Baker's best Who serial as well.

24. Genesis of the Daleks -- The Doctor's most famous enemies get a much needed reboot in a tale that's more interested in the creator of the Daleks and portraying the horrors of war while making excellent moral arguments about the nature of the future and scientific experimentation.

23. The Androids of Tara -- If you think of Tara as a silly runaround, then you're missing the point. The stakes are small, the wit sharp, the performances excellent and the script a corker.

22. Christmas on a Rational Planet -- Lawrence Miles's debut is weird enough to make Ghost Light come off as a normal runaround, funny enough to force you to put down the book in order to finish your howling, filled with enough ideas to cause wild debate and entertaining enough to make you want to finish in one day, then re-read it the next.

21. Inferno -- From the sublime Season 7, Inferno gives the Who viewer parallel universes, the end of the world, brill performances and a new philosophical concept for the show -- the free will is not an illusion scene. If The Silurians is the dark point, then Inferno shows hope spring eternal.

20. The Ark in Space -- a majestic story that ushers in the real beginning of the Tom Baker era. Holmes gives his most optimistic view of humanity as the colonists of the Ark throw off their insect-like compartmentalization in order to resist a very powerful enemy.

19. Down -- Any book that ends with the villain having his own laser gun shoved up his ass to defeat his plan for reshaping the universe gets my vote for a great story, hands down. Somehow, Mad Larry Miles makes the weird seem normal. That he also gives us the best characterization of one Bernice Summerfield is icing on the cake.

18. The Burning -- Getting the privilege of recreating the Doctor in your own image is rare. Justin Richards took the opportunity and ended up writing his best novel ever. By eschewing his normal convoluted plot twists and instead focusing on what makes a great Who tale -- strong story and interesting characters -- Richards restates what makes Who so special in under 300 pages.

17. The Face of Evil -- memorable for being the first story that showed the after effects of the Doctor's intervention, The Face of Evil shows that a strong story and excellent performances can make a studio runaround into something transcendent.

16. The Dying Days -- An audacious, rollicking adventure that borrows from Independence Day, The Dying Days takes the Doctor Who Virgin books out with style. Although the plot is familiar, Lance Parkin's sheer bravura gives everything a fresh feel.

15. Managra -- A no-brainer choice for the best ever Missing Adventure. Stephen Marley manages to capture the Doctor and Sarah from their era, but also expand their characters in fresh, exciting ways. The story itself is filled with sharp dialogue and stunning imagery.

14. Snakedance -- At one point, this was a bottom ten choice for me. However, Snakedance has become my choice for the best serial of Season 20. A worthy sequel to Kinda, Snakedance reworks its predecessor in a more conventional Who format, and is blessed by a whole series of great performances.

13. Warriors' Gate -- A very complex story about choice. A visually interesting serial, combined with a strong script and a cast equal to the task. It end with one of the most fond farewells ever, as Romana goes to be her own Doctor and take on her own causes.

12. The Adventuress of Henrietta Street -- Without a doubt, the most complex and dense of Who novels. A history about events during the birth of the industrial revolution and a new age of reason, Mad Larry Miles manages to make a "non-fiction" tale take on mysterious and suspenseful elements with ease and grace.

11. Spearhead from Space -- the most conventional of the Season 7 stories. Spearhead benefits from another great Robert Holmes tale and a cast who understand the script. It's a story that retreads familiar ground, yet always feels fresh, because the cast plays it straight.

10. Horror of Fang Rock -- Uncle Terrance Dicks's masterpiece. With nods to the base under siege story and The Thing from Another World, Fang Rock mixes horror, sci-fi and commentary on the Victorian class system. It also features Louise Jameson's best performance as Leela.

09. The Talons of Weng Chiang -- The culmination of 3 brilliant years for the Hinchcliffe/Holmes/Baker trio. An atmospheric tale of horror, set in Jack the Ripper's London, with nods to Fu Manchu and Sherlock Holmes.

08. The Robots of Death -- Take some interesting design concepts for robots, mix with a top cast, a stellar script that's really a variation on the Zombie story, and some interesting psychological insight, and you have a serial to savor.

07. Dead Romance -- Y'know, if there is one book that's come out that could claim to stand alone, this one would be it. It's neck deep in continuity, but presented in such a way as to not matter to the non-hard-core fan. It's full of Mad Larry's personal agendas, but they wouldn't matter if you didn't get the reference. Dead Romance is just a great novel, full stop.

06. Kinda -- Kinda succeeds by not being a typical Who serial, yet retains what made Who great: strong story with interesting characters. Kinda manages to weave religious imagery and the recurring theme of boxes, with common nightmares made real. Kinda fits Davison's Doctor to a T.

05. The Deadly Assassin -- THE benchmark serial for all modern Who, full stop. You can feel its stamp on any serial that mentions the Time Lords and a good chunk of both the Virgin and BBC book mythology. It's also the forerunner of the more adult McCoy serials of Season 25 and 26, the more violent stories of Seasons 21 & 22, and still manges to say more about why the Doctor left Gallifrey without ever coming up with a backstory.

04. Interference -- A Godzilla-sized story that manages to be social commentary, dark comedy, a political diatribe, a writer's manifesto and a grand tragedy all at once. Arguably the first true Post-Modern Who tale. Loz Miles's deconstruction of the Doctor and of Who continuity is really done in the name of telling a great story, more than anything else.

03. The Seeds of Doom -- Far more violent than your average Who serial, The Seeds of Doom pushes against a lot of general rules for Who and for the character of the Doctor as to what he can or can't do. The characters are archetypes of sci-fi/horror/adventure stories, but played with such conviction that they feel fresh. Tom Baker gives his best performance as the Doctor, weaving a whole boatload of characteristics into a cohesive whole.

02. City of Death -- It doesn't get much better than this. The one serial that deserves to stand alone outside of DW. A story that fires on all levels with such perfection that it crushes all competition as to what is the best ever Who serial. Funny, tightly plotted, brilliantly performed. For a while, this serial topped a few lists of Greatest Who stories. And a certain segment of fans flipped out, because City of Death isn't an "important" story, like The Deadly Assassin, Genesis of the Daleks, The War Games, The Caves of Androzani or Curse of Fenric. I'm not too sure if this was due to anti-Williams backlash, or because hard-core Anoraks hated that a comedy topped any Who related list. Though it seems that whenever I want to show a Who story to non fans to show what makes this thing of ours so special, they always get it after watching City of Death. Makes you think, doesn't it?

01. Alien Bodies -- It is the best Who story in any format, bar none. It deals with the Doctor's death, the Doctor's legacy and his place in the universe. With nods to Robert Holmes, Lawrence Miles manages to forever make his mark in the Whoniverse with a tale that affected all continuity going forward, yet manages to be a stand alone story, like its spiritual cousin, The Deadly Assassin.


Forty Years, Forty Awful Stories by Terrence Keenan 16/12/03

If the 40 greatest stories are the equivalent of giving Catherine Zeta Jones a foot massage while listening to John Coltrane's A Love Supreme on the deck of a beach house in Malibu at sunset, then the following stories (book and TV only, since I haven't explored audios and comics, natch.) are the equivalent of being stripped naked, covered in dog food and thrown into pits of rabid miniature poodles. Again, this reflects today's opinion and is and may not be true yesterday or tomorrow.

40. Placebo Effect -- stories can be badly written fanwank festivals, but should never be boring. Good for insomniacs only.

39. The Mark of the Rani -- There are a few good ideas here, but the dialogue leaves a lot to be desired. And was the Master really needed in this story?

38. EarthWorld -- If Jac Rayner never wrote another novel, it would be too soon. Somehow it manages to be both too silly and not silly enough.

37. Lucifer Rising -- a how-to manual on how not to cowrite a book and what not to do in a debut novel. All the characters are so bad, you can't even work up a good hate on them. Toss in idiotic plot elements and everything is there to ensure failure.

36. Falls the Shadow -- a confusing, sub Big Steve King plot. Atrocious villains, bad characters and New Ace make this a must-avoid book.

35. Time and the Rani -- Although I do admit to having a soft spot for this one, it goes wrong on so many levels it boggles the mind.

34. Planet of the Daleks -- a redo of The Daleks that manages to go south in a hurry. Pertwee's worst performance as the Doctor.

33. The Curse of Peladon -- Who goes Star Trek, and gets really boring.

32. Arc of Infinity -- When Peter Davison can't save a story with his performance, you know things are pretty dire. Arc fails the laugh test the moment Damon says "Nyssa of Traken."

31. Conundrum -- a smarmy, self indulgent self-aware story that feels like an author showing off more than anything else.

30. Seeing I -- Kate Orman and Jon Blum rip off Set Piece and forget what made that book so special in the first place, deciding to make their own political and personal agenda more important than telling a good story.

29. Verdigris -- see my rationale for Conundrum.

28. Timelash -- The cheap one of season 22, and it shows. It has at least two endings and far more hammy acting performances.

27. The Crystal Bucephalus -- A Craig Hinton fanwank convention. An incomprehensible storyline with one of the most obvious plot twists ever seen.

26. The City of the Dead -- Lloyd Rose's debut has a lot going for it. Unfortunately, it goes off the rails in terms of unnecessary Doctor torture, indulgences in "magic" and lame portrayals of female characters.

25. The Monster of Peladon -- It's the only story I can't finish watching. In fact I can't get past part two without laughing at it, or being incredibly bored out of my skull.

24. The Twin Dilemma -- easily the most entertaining of the bad serials. It manages to go completely off the rails due to Colin Baker's OTT performance. It barely has enough story for two episodes, let alone four. And there are the twins... (Places gun to temple, pulls trigger).

23. Walking to Babylon -- The only redeeming quality of this book was that it got Lawrence Miles so angry, he wrote Dead Romance. When an author tries to rewrite all of history to support a personal agenda, they should have their word processors taken away.

22. Colony in Space -- The most boring Pertwee Serial. Even Mac Hulke slipped up now and then too.

21. Silver Nemesis -- If everyone in front of and behind the camera were on drugs, then they all need to be shipped off to rehab. If they weren't, then massive drug intake might have helped.

20. The Eight Doctors -- a regretful addition to the list, as Uncle Terrance Dicks's book does play to my Target book-reading inner Anorak. It's just that... well... I think he was blasted on Gin when he wrote it.

19. Human Nature -- Although very popular, Human Nature earns it's placement due to having bad villains that could have been so much better with little effort, as well as a stupid, feel-good epilogue that ruins the proper ending to the novel.

18. Unnatural History -- The OrmanBlum borrow from a multitude of sources for their story and manage to turn a book into a manifesto of what they think Who continuity should be while rendering the borrowed ideas mundane.

17. Dying in the Sun -- Not everyone can write a Doctor Who book. Jon De Burgh Miller proves this.

16. Delta and the Bannermen -- I'll forgive the lack of internal story logic. I'll forgive the Echo and the Bunnymen reference in the title. I'll forgive the patronizing attitude to the Welsh. But, I can't forgive the bad acting or Ken Dodd.

15. Time-Flight -- Sometimes, even a decent Peter Davison performance can't save a story. Anthony Ainley should be shot for his performance.

14. The Ancestor Cell -- There are times when ignoring continuity is a smart idea. Not with TAC. Faction Paradox are reduced to Ant Ainley Master clones and the big finale is a big dud, instead.

13. The Quantum Archangel -- Well, Craig Hinton said he wanted to write the ultimate in fanwank, and succeeded. The big question is... why? For the love of humanity why?!?!?!?!?!?!?

12. The Time Monster -- Another serial that falls under the label of "stories that suck that I have a soft spot for." It goes spectacularly wrong, in so many ways, but I still find compelling enough to watch.

11. The Shadows of Avalon -- I'll let the unnecessary continuity go. I'll also let the fluctuating book style go (character piece or action runaround). But, I can't forgive the banalization of Romana, nor another pair of vile villains, Cavis and Gandar.

10. The King's Demons -- The sad truth is that all of the Ant Ainley Master stories after Castrovalva pretty much suck, except for Planet of Fire and Survival. The King's Demons is no exception.

09. Divided Loyalties -- The book equivalent of Plan 9 From Outer Space. A Mount Everest of fanwank. A classic unintentional comedy from Gary Russell.

08. Battlefield -- A classic example of an overindulgent writer combining with a clueless, underfunded production team and a cast who doesn't seem to care whether or not they'll look like asses on the screen.

07. Terminus -- A story that with each viewing make me want to pound nails into the floor with my forehead. The script is all right, but the actors don't care and the production is lame.

06. The Daemons -- Possibly the most overrated Who story of all time. I love Olive Hawthorne and Professor Horner, but the rest is so painful.... It's like giving myself an appendectomy with rusty tweezers and a mellon baller.

05. Enlightenment -- The bottom of the barrel of a very poor season. Davison is all right, but the rest of the cast come off as the house hams at the local theatre company. Toss in a script that is pretty dire, and I end up spending 100 minutes cringing in shame.

04. Head Games -- Winner of the most spiteful Who book ever. Its self indulgence and self awareness aren't even the worst of it. The worst is a whole herd of TARDIS regulars that you'd love to see beaten with blunt instruments then spend a single page reading about.

03. The Three Doctors -- Even though I do enjoy watching this serial, it really is rubbish. Katy Manning's worst performance ever. Nick Courtney's worst performance ever. Bob Baker and Dave Marti's worst script ever. Ugh.

02. No Future -- Fanwank is one thing. Fanwank elevated to pretentious levels is quite another thing. Paul Cornell had no real understanding of the punk movement, since he makes them hippies with bad haircuts. But the low points, on top of an incomprehensible storyline, are the Doctor and New Ace. There's just no excuse for them. They manage to make Cavis and Gandar tolerable, a prodigious feat. Use this book to replace the missing leg on your couch, instead of wasting time reading it.

01. The Curse of Fenric -- Every time I watch Fenric, it angers me. To me, it goes in so many wrong directions, that all associated in the making of this serial should be covered in honey and staked naked over anthills. The sad truth is that there is the potential to make this a great serial -- better acting, some rewrites. Alas, all that is left is, in my humble opinion a fiasco that champions everything that makes a bad Who story.


Top Nine Seasons by Terrence Keenan 19/12/03

09. Season One
Why: It set up most of the basic premises of Who, including the Doctor, the companions, the TARDIS, the Daleks, the historical adventure, etc...

08. Season Twenty-five
Why: It has McCoy's best serial ever (Greatest Show) a fun action romp (Remembrance) and a noble failure with a strong allegory (The Happiness Patrol). And even though Silver Nemesis is complete bollocks, there are some interesting ideas in the mix of that serial as well.

07. Season Six
Why: The TARDIS team is one of the strongest in any era of the show. The three top stories (The Invasion, The Mind Robber, The War Games) all show how diverse Who can be in the types of stories told and still bloody work. That Patrick Troughton got one helluva send off.

06. Season Seventeen
Why: It's filled with big ideas, big dreams, tons of humor. That it has the single greatest, deserves-to-stand-alone-serial in Who (City of Death). That it has the second greatest TARDIS tag team ever in Big Tommy B and Lady Sarah Ward. That all the serials are magnificently, squarely entertaining.

05. Season Thirteen
Why: It's the running, jumping, hauling ass season. That within all the the atmospheric B-Movie settings, you get the witness of the best ever TARDIS duo in Tom Baker and Lis Sladen. That it contains two absolute standouts in The Seeds of Doom and Pyramids of Mars.

04. Season Sixteen
Why: The Gorgeous Mary Tamm. Brill Chemistry between Big Tommy B and the Gorgeous Mary Tamm. That is a season about the fate of the universe, gods and superpowerful keys, the stakes in four of the stories are quite small. The Ribos Operation -- Best Season opener ever. And did I mention the Gorgeous Mary Tamm?

03. Season Twenty-one
Why: The character arc for the Doctor is stunning in its concept and execution, rising above some iffy serials and one horrid one. That Peter Davison gives the best Doctor performance ever in Caves of Androzani. That the whole oppressive tone of the character arc is redeemed by "I'm not going to let you stop me now!" And, mostly, that it proves Peter Davison was a great choice to play the Doctor after all.

02. Season Seven
Why: 4 very strong serials. Strong themes dealing with race, humans being their own worst enemy, and free will. It is the benchmark for contemporary Who stories. Caroline John as Mighty Liz Shaw, queen of the miniskirt. Jon Pertwee shows how good he could be in the title role.

01. Season Fourteen
Why: No weak serials. A season that gets stronger as it goes along. A Production team in concert with its Doctor. The benchmark Who serial which affected everything afterward (The Deadly Assassin). Big Tommy B. Lis Sladen. Weezie Jameson. And a thousand other reasons in evidence when you watch Masque, Hand, Assassin, Evil, Robots & Talons in sequence.


Top Ten Screams by Joe Ford 22/12/03

Oh come on somebody had to do it! The diversity, the monsters, the bosoms... all vital ingredients of Doctor Who but the one thing all respectable fans ignore is the screams, as Matt Jones pointed out in Doctor Who Magazine if the companions aren't scared (and screaming) how do we know when to be afraid? Here for your amusement are the all time best screams the show has ever presented, specially presented in surround sound...

10) "AHHHHHHH!" Grifiths, Attack of the Cybermen

It took an actor of Brian Glover's calibre to bring one of the finest male screams to Doctor Who. Trapped in a dark, dank sewer and confronted with giant metal monsters he turns to the camera and lets out a belter that reverberates through the tunnels long after he has left the screen. It is when this supposed 'hard nut' wets his pants and screams that you realise there really is something scary about the Cybermen...

9) "AHHRRRRRR!" Nyssa, Snakedance

Yes it's that much maligned cliff-hanger where innocent daughter of Traken, that guy from Bread and Pops from At Home with the Braithwaites are confronted by that burping fool from Men Behaving Badly who orders their immediate execution! Shock horror, Sarah Sutton finally lets rip with her lungs and provides an already camp, melodramatic moment with even more staginess. Brilliant stuff.

7) "AHH OH HELP! AHHH! OH AHH!" Jo, Day of the Daleks

Oh this is just awful, Jo was by far the worst screamer in the history of the series, she could never quite make it sound authentic but this diabolical moment of hysteria deserves a place on this list just for the inclusion of 'companion pretends to be in pain to escape from baddies' routine. Katy Manning hams it up big time, grasping her hair and stealing the limelight from frilly Jon Pertwee in her twee, Doris Day inspired costume!

6) "YEEEAAAHH!" "AAAAAAAAAAAAA OO OO!" Peri/Sharaz Jek, The Caves of Androzani

Frankly it is one of the most startling moments in Doctor Who's entire run and is made all the more dramatic for the ear piercing screams. Sharaz Jek has his mask ripped away to reveal his hideous, disfigured face... he defeats Chellak and rushes to Peri and tells her "Nothing will hurt you now"... as he tries to show her his face she recoils in utter horror (with a rip roaring scream) and he cowers across the set and under a table and screams/weeps for pity. Revealing and dramatic and proof of how far the show could go, this really is adult stuff.

5) "AEEEAEEEAEEEAEEE!" Victoria, Fury from the Deep

The most famous screamer in the entire series, Victoria could barely walk around a corner without producing a glass shattering sound (admittedly there were usually hairy monsters around them so, fair enough). But this was a truly inspired use of the girl in her exit story and another chance to see Doctor Who breaking down the fourth wall and acknowledging its faults. The scream is used to save the day! A creature allergic to sound gets quite an earful when the Doctor records one of Victoria's lung busters and plays it over and over and over... it is far, far scarier than any monster sound effect in the show.

4) "AIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEE!" Mel, Terror of the Vervoids, The Ultimate Foe, Time and the Rani, Delta and the Bannermen, Dragonfire

Whether she was singing "Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat!" or threatening to "scweam and scweam!" in Dick Wittington Bonnie Langford's incredible voice kept her in work for years and years. Fortunate then that JNT noticed her dulcet tones and consider her perfect material for a Doctor Who companion. A man is electrified by an electric fence (funny that) and Mel screams. A huge dragon lies behind a door marked 'Keep Out' in the Matrix (then why open it?) and Mel screams. A four eyed monster jumps out of a quarry and Mel screams. A gurgling green baby hatches from an egg and Mel screams. A dome headed dragon appears from the darkness, smoke puffing from his nostrils and Mel screa... oh you get the idea. What a pair of lungs. You can feel the camera wobbling.

3) "JAMIE THE DOCTOR! AHHHHH! AHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHH!" Zoe, The Mind Robber

A truly surreal, terrifying moment made all the more powerful thanks to Wendy Padbury's squealing. She said she always thought that Zoe was a right screamer but when she went back and watched the videos she was pleasantly surprised to find that wasn't true. Well said Wendy, but when you did let rip by God did we all pay attention.

2) "AHHHHH!" DIDDLE-DUM DIDDLE DUM OOO-WEE-OOO! Barbara, The Daleks

Surely the most celebrated scream in the shows entire history, this cliff-hanging moment is the perfect end to the perfect episode. It strikes me as odd that everybody should condemn the show for being sexist, politically incorrect because of the screaming companions and yet still rejoice in this delicious moment of terror. Never before has a scream carried so much weight because viewers must have been desperate to find out just what has frightened Barbara so much...

1) "EXTERMINATE!" "WOEEEEAAAAAHHHHHH!" Davros, Genesis of the Daleks

What's this? There isn't a plump-breasted female in the number one spot! Of course not! Because nobody, but nobody could possibly beat Michael Wishers heart pounding realistic wail as Davros is finally exterminated by his own creations. Every single second of possibly the best ever Doctor Who story leads up to this incredible moment where Davros' scheming and thoroughly despicable foul play finally back fires on him. And as he begs for his life to be spared and finally screams away his last breath I actually felt sorry for the most evil man the universe has ever known. Utterly chilling.


The Ten Standard Defences by Mike Morris 24/12/03

It's a good rule of thumb, I always find, to bear in mind that when it comes to film and television the rest of the world is a bit stupid; how else can you explain the movie careers of Ben Affleck and all the Arquette family, while Tom Baker goes unappreciated? Makes no sense to me. Still, the downside is that - unless you live in a cave - coexistence with such people is inevitable. It's bad enough dealing with people who like Star Trek, but worse still are the people who will laugh at your appreciation of Doctor Who but will watch Eastenders every bloody week, plus the omnibus on Sunday. In this cold, inhospitable climate, you may one day find yourself confronted with the following question;

"Doctor Who? How can you watch that crap?"

And, in the fashion of chess, here are ten standard defences to that opening.

  1. The Nostalgia: Shrug, laugh, and say "It's just part of my childhood", or "It's got that indefinable magic" or something equally bland. No marks for courage but it serves a purpose. It just means you've let the other side win.
  2. The Aggressive: A sample sentence would be "How many episodes have you seen anyway? None, I'll bet. You don't know what you're talking about so don't criticise the finest telefantasy programme in ignorance you small-minded pleb." There's integrity in this approach, but in my experience it tends to annoy or frighten people just a little.
  3. The Esoteric: Smile enigmatically and say, "Ah, I can't really explain if you haven't seen it." This will hint at a wonderful world beyond the grasp of the average person, and make you seem mysterious and deep in a nerdy sort of way. Recommended with strangers.
  4. The St. Peter: "What - Doctor Who? Ah, I'm not mad about it, I just think it's funny... it's so bad it's good, like... and the theme tune's all right..." This wins even less respect than it deserves. If you've ever done that, wash yourself. You must feel dirty.
  5. The Cultist: Nod thoughtfully. Then say, "It's really interesting that you'd say that. I wonder if you'd consider watching a story or two, just so you can understand it better?" Bring them back to your house, hit them with City of Death and before long you'll have them hooked.
  6. The Grinder: This really only works with flatmates or other people who will spend a large amount of time in your house. It involves simply ignoring all protestations and putting Doctor Who on anyway, then watching it in silence. Repeat over the course of several months. This does in fact work, even though you'll be hated for it; I'll never forget the day when my previously sneering flatmate looked at me with resignation in his voice and resentful defeat in his eyes, and... asked me to put Doctor Who on.
  7. The Intellectual. Formulate the most incomprehensible Who-related sentence you can think of and reel it off whenever possible. An example would be "What's interesting about it is the way the beautiful but nave premise is counterpointed by a sophisticated level of semiotic thickness and literate intelligence in the scripting which is understated - in fact actively disguised by - the fast-paced narrative structure and associated conventions, giving the whole production a multilayered cohesion which can be enjoyed in an accessible but very real and satisfying way." Or something like that. If you can't think of a sentence of your own, don't worry; borrow one from Doctor Who: The Unfolding Text or a Rob Matthews review.
  8. The Lowest Common Denominator. Sort of the opposite of 7, for a different demographic. Try "It made giant maggots out of condoms" or "it had a monster that looked like a giant green dick" or "there was this American companion with great tits." This isn't big and it isn't clever. But it gets you off the hook.
  9. The Superfan: Simply intimidate the audience with your deep-seated love of the programme in a quick-fire aggressive manner. "Yes. I love Doctor Who. Love it. I have derived my entire moral code from the programme. I quote Tom Baker nine times a day. I own all the audio dramas and DVD's, about a hundred books not including novelizations, contribute regularly to several websites under various pseudonyms, have about eighty stories on video not including the other thirty I've taped off the telly, paid two hundred quid for The Dying Days and I cry at the end of Earthshock." Overstate things if necessary (which, just to clarify, is what I'm doing. Honest). Everyone will be too scared to take the piss.
  10. The Retreat. Just sit there and take it. Let everyone think you're mad. Don't justify it at all. After all, they're the mad ones really. And who wants to live in a world where Doctor Who is considered sad? Not me; I'll take the abuse, thanks, and stay in my rather wonderful little world.


The Best of the DWRG by Terrence Keenan 25/12/03

The following list of reviews represents the best of what the DWRG has to offer. They are in no special order:

  1. The Season 21 Overviews of Rob Matthews and Mike Morris.
    Two of our best both take on the complex season 21. And although there is similar ground tread, you can see the differences in their takes on Resurrection and Warriors, just to name one difference.
  2. Robert Smith? on Robot.
    I don't agree with Robert Smith? a lot -- which is why I like him. And although he more of a book analyst, his few forays into Serial Who have been intriguing. Instead of taking on "classics", he sniffs around the unloved, the weird and the merely entertaining. And although his take on Enemy of the World is just as fun, Robot is my favorite.
  3. Peter Anghelides on The Scarlet Empress.
    Wow. Originally posted on RADW in 1998, this is a running commentary that manages to sum up the wonder, confusion, faults and joys of Paul Magrs's debut Who novel. And it's fun to hear that this novel shook up other line contributors, as well as just us plain readers and critics.
  4. Finn Clark on Divided Loyalties.
    He is the Abbott of the DWRG book critics. Finn Clark's reviews are always must-reads. He manages to look at Who books from numerous points of views, yet still sound like one unified approach. Clark can be vulgar, insulting, intellectual and funny at once. His take on Divided Loyalties had me laughing my ass off the first time I read it. And I will freely admit that I have tried to copy his distinct sense of humor in reviews, without much success.
  5. Rob Matthews on Romana.
    Rob is someone I swap e-mails with on a regular basis. I consider him a comrade and respect his opinions, even when I disagree with him. His reviews will have me reaching for my tapes and books, just to try and see things through his mind. He's also caused me on a couple of occasions to scream "Fuck!" and rewrite critiques because he got there first and far more elequently. His take on the Lady Romanadvoratrelundar is my personal favorite, and the prime example of the "Fuck!" situation.
  6. Mike Morris on The Ambassadors of Death.
    This was a surprise, even more so than his evisceration of The Sun Makers. Mike Morris is not a fan of the Pertwee era, but it's obvious he loves a great Who story, regardless of era. Mike's reviews are usually focused around a core idea, which he runs with. And even if you don't agree with him, you'll be hard pressed to argue against what he has to say.
  7. Tim Roll-Pickering on Inferno.
    Tim examines serials in terms of acting, script, direction, production design and theme. He took the time to examine every single Who serial in broadcast order, a commendable feat. For the most part, he has a traditional-bent towards what he like in Who and what he doesn't, although he has surprised me with a couple of his choices -- 10 out of 10 for The Hand of Fear, listing City of Death as worst serial ever (I respect his opinion, but I think he's dead wrong). I could have listed any of his serial reviews as a great one, but chose to honor his favorite serial.
  8. Mike Morris on the Graham Williams era.
    It's a rant and love letter in the form of a Top Ten List. As to why he did it as a top 10 list, I'm not sure, but I think it's brilliant to the core. As I've said before, the Graham Williams era is my introduction to Who, and therefore I love it and love to see other people defend it. But, Mike Morris put up the best defense of this era.
  9. Joe Ford on City of Death.
    I think deep down, Joe loves every little scrap of Who, even the parts he claims to be sweaty bollocks. He proudly defends the current EDAs. He proudly defends Colin Baker's era. And even when he's trashing Davison stories, I get the feeling that he wants to like them, but for some reason, can't. In the case of City of Death, he's in proud fan mode, but with wonderful input from his mate Simon, who's kind of a recurring character in his reviews (his lover and non Who fan). Besides, it takes chutzpah to use a toe-sucking reference in a Who review.
  10. Finn Clark on Dead Romance.
    I could have chosen any of Finn's critiques on Lawrence Miles, because they're all brilliant. I chose his review of Dead Romance because I just reread and supplemented my own commentary. It also shows Finn to be of two mindsets -- the fanboy who is a bit scared of Dead Romance, and a fiction reader who admires and respects the book. He manages to use a Thorton Wilder comment on the theatre to set the tone of his own review, once again showing he can look at Who offerings in a bigger literary context.
  11. Rob Matthews on the Fourth Doctor.
    It's the review that has me forever referring to Tom Baker as Big Tommy B. It's also the first review of his that made me sit up and say "Hmm. He's really good." It's a strong, far-more-objective-than-I-could-ever-be examination of an era that rarely get trashed hard. Rob manages to explain why the era works, what the faults are and even posits that it was Tom's length of tenure that might have finished the show for good.
  12. Mike Morris on Verdigris.
    In this list, I've tried to focus on the more positive and intellectual reviews. But, deep down, we love the occasional trashing. Deep down, there's that one Who story we want to turn into Downtown Tokyo so that we can do a Godzilla on it. And although there is nothing like a Finn Clark rip job, there is something really special about what Mike Morris has to say about Veridgris. Now, I've heard that his views have mellowed a bit on this novel, but the demolition job here at the DWRG is THE trashing that all others are measured by, IMHO.


My Top Ten Favourite (and least favourite) reads of 2003 by Brett Walther 27/12/03

2003 was the year that I rediscovered Doctor Who in print. Having detested Virgin's New Adventures since day one, I remember an overwhelming sense of relief when the BBC took control of the novel series a few years back. Maybe the Doctor would return as a hero, rather than a devious mastermind, and maybe the emphasis of the new books would be on telling stories rather than merely trying to push the envelope beyond recognition. Unfortunately, like many others, I tested the waters of the new range by purchasing The Eight Doctors, War of the Daleks and Legacy of the Daleks, and found that my hopes for a new direction for the range were dashed rather cruelly. That the names of some of my least favourite authors from the Virgin run of books -- David A. McIntee and Christopher Bulis, for instance -- kept popping up in later releases cemented my decision not to bother with Doctor Who in print, and merely stick to the video and DVD releases.

Then, early in 2003, I discovered virtually the entire range of BBC Books in a discount bin at a dollar store (of all places), and had a moment's weakness. Here was my chance to load up on everything that I'd missed, despite having already convinced myself that I hadn't missed out on anything by avoiding the series. About five shopping bags later, I set to work on giving Doctor Who a second chance. I have to say, I haven't regretted the decision.

Although there's only been a handful of truly brilliant reads among the lot, I must say that the BBC Books are a genuine improvement on Virgin's run.

Top Ten reads of 2003:
10) Zeta Major
A truly scary development and evolution of the rather vague concepts introduced in Planet of Evil. (8/10)
9) The Roundheads
A charming historical that wins you over on its sense of adventure. (8/10)
8) Dreams of Empire
The Second Doctor captured brilliantly, topped off with a very human story of revenge and politics in a sci-fi setting. (8/10)
7) Verdigris This one surprised me. I expected an eye-roller, but laughed all the way through. Iris works so well pitted against the Third Doctor! (8/10)
6)Players
If there had been stories like this during the Sixth Doctor and Peri's run on television, I wouldn't have despised the era so much. (8/10)
5) The Murder Game
I read this on vacation in Florida, and it's the perfect holiday book. Steve Lyons draws a web of mysteries that make for an enthralling read, and the Selachians are cool. (8/10)
4) Festival of Death
Made me realize how much I missed Gareth Roberts. The unfolding of the plot in reverse is brilliant. (9/10)
3) Bunker Soldiers
Kiev is one of the most detailed (and alien!) settings the books have presented. A simple, yet highly involving tale weaving science fiction and historical fact masterfully. (10/10)
2) The Banquo Legacy
The only really great Eighth Doctor adventure on the list is a masterpiece. The scariest Doctor Who book I've ever read, with a fascinating cast of characters. (10/10)
1) Last of the Gaderene
Mark Gatiss brings the Pertwee era back with a bang in the most "un-putdownable" of the Doctor Who books. It's got laughs, action and a lot of chills, encapsulating everything I think Doctor Who should be in one novel. (10/10)

Among the true stinkers of the titles I read in 2003 are the following...
10) Deep Blue
Sickeningly violent and gruesome -- and no, I haven't read Rags, nor do I intend to! It's also highly unoriginal. (5/10)
9) The Face Eater
Should have been called "The Blender", 'cos the titular monster is a poorly-defined mixture of all sorts of monsters into one, and never really comes off the page. (5/10)
8) The Taint
Unmemorable, and a bit of a mess. I have no idea what the author was trying to say in this book, but thank god for Fitz: a breath of fresh (albeit nicotine-infused) air. (4/10)
7) Dominion
Relentlessly depressing, and those bits set in the psychedelic dimension go absolutely nowhere. (4/10)
6) Who On Earth is Tom Baker?
This one sat on my shelf for years before I got around to read it in September. I wish I hadn't. A pointless effort that reveals virtually nothing about the man, while managing to be seriously disturbing. In a way, it's one of the scariest things I've ever read. Not in a good way, mind. (3/10)
5) The Slow Empire
Dave Stone's attempt at crying, "Look at me! Aren't I hilarious?" This book reminded me of that annoying little cousin that everyone has who's always trying to draw attention to himself, although he's got nothing to show for it once everyone's looking. Smug, irritating and ultimately plotless. Like a collection of dire short stories with no payoff at the end. (3/10)
4) Escape Velocity
There's a reason why everyone hates this one. Many reasons. The single most unimaginative Doctor Who story ever. (2/10)
3) Placebo Effect
So continuity laden it stinks. I mean sinks. (2/10)
2) The Quantum Archangel
Painfully derivative, made worse by the most absolutely excruciating use of hyperbole. (Was I hyperbolising just now?) (2/10)
1) Grimm Reality
Just how I seem to be the only one to loathe this abomination is beyond me. Uncertain in tone and inconsistent in delivery, this is the most vile, directionless, pointless, poorly-written excuse for Doctor Who ever. (In my initial review, I originally gave it a 2/10, but I'm dropping it down to the depths of Mindwarp and giving it a 1/10 as a competitor for the worst Doctor Who story ever.)


My top forty turkeys by Rob Matthews 31/12/03

I try my best not to focus on the negative, honest, but Terrence Keenan's own bottom 40 list made me realise that sometimes it's instructive to actually clarify what you don't like as well as what you do. My Who-literateness isn't as extensive as some people's, so as with my forty favourites this is restricted to the stories I know. Could I be arsed to watch more of the Pertwee era, for example, there might well be a lot more Mutants and Mind of Evil here. But I can't. So, in alphabetical order --

  1. Anachrophobia
    Oh dear, Joe's going to think I'm getting back at him for all the pops at Mary Tamm... I'm afraid I just found this a plodding runaround, a television story idea unsucessfully transcribed into a book. And it irritates me that I seem to be the only one bothered that the 'accelerated time' stuff is done wrong, because what's actually described in those scenes is accelerated decay. Disappointing even if you haven't read Festival of Death. Devastating if you have!
  2. Arc of Infinity
    An incoherent mishmash that neglects to actually tell the viewer who Omega is, despite being broadcast a decade after his last appearance in the show. And it brings Tegan 'back' in ludicrously contrived fashion. And it has a rubbishy version of Borusa who looks like a shifty used car salesman. This is Ian Levine heaven - all references to old stories, no attempts to actually tell a story.
  3. Beige Planet Mars
    The only Benny book on my list - alternately juvenile, predictable, grating and badly written. Not Lance Parkin's finest hour.
  4. The Chase
    Enjoyable in an Ed Wood sort of way, but I don't consider this much of an advertisement for our show. The 'Empire State Building' scene brings new meaning to the word 'nadir'. Successfully remade as The Dalek Masterplan, however. Nice leaving sequence for Ian and Barbara too.
  5. The Dalek Invasion of Earth
    Highly overrated and virtually unwatchable apart from a couple of Bill Hartnell's scenes, a case of taking the Daleks too far too soon without the resources to do so. David J Howe suggests the serial easily transcends its silly B-movie plot. I suggest it doesn't. And the direction is awful. Not merely pedestrian, but properly awful.
  6. Deadline
    A well-structured professional piece of work. But the same could probably be said about Triumph of the Will. Thoroughly insulting to its target audience, people familiar enough with An Unearthly Child and The Dead Planet to understand its frame of reference, this is like paying ten quid to be kicked in the nuts. That it came from the creator of Jubilee and stars Derek Jacobi makes it even more of a gut-wrenching disappointment, like Robert Holmes had collaborated with Laurence Olivier and the result was The Twin Dilemma. If this list were in descending order, I think Deadline would make the bottom spot. When I wrote my own review of it, I think sheer rage robbed me of ability to type. Joe Ford's pluperfect review expresses my own thoughts on it with far more grace.
  7. Death to the Daleks
    Not terrible really - this was actually the last one I came up with when mulling over this list -, but completely undistinguished. The Pertwee era Dalek stories (apart from Day of... which in a sense isn't a Dalek story at all) were just there to be Dalek stories, and that's all. Genesis of the Daleks, made a mere year later, could have come from a different and altogether superior TV series.
  8. Delta and the Bannermen
    It has its champions, but in my humble opinion it's ghastly. The villains have no clear motive for their actions, the attempts at humour are cack-handed, the title character - who ought to be the focus of sympathy - is a complete and total plank, and I'm not at all keen on fifties nostalgia anyway.
  9. Destiny of the Daleks
    I'm baffled, I mean truly bewildered, that this tripe isn't more hated. Especially since even the people who think it's good it just end up listing all its flaws ('Okay, Davros is rubbish compared to Michael Wisher... okay, the Movellans are a bit easy to defeat etc')... Also there's an assumption that people who hate this are people who hate the Graham Williams era, which is far from true in my case. Just plain wrong, in fact, a totally misguided basis for argument. Bottom line with this story is that there are far too many errors of logic. That no-one but me seems to give a flying crap about this suggests I'm actually inhabiting a minor Twilight Zone episode.
  10. Dying in the Sun
    It's a bunch of words on a series of pages that never once adds up to a book. I'm interested in forties Hollywood, so this proved an even bigger disappointment than it would have were it merely a hopeless mess.
  11. The Eight Doctors
    Er, this was meant to grab new Who fans whose interest had been piqued by the telemovie, was it? That would explain its discretion in terms of back-references to the original TV series - with maximum subtlety, Dicks build his non-plot around a mere handful of old stories - An Unearthly Child, The Tribe of Gum, The War Games, The Sea Devils, The Daemons, Carnival of Monsters, Frontier in Space, The Invasion of Time, State of Decay, The Five Doctors, Planet of Spiders and Trial of a Time Lord. And maybe Survival, I can't recall. Also, note to Terrance Dicks: No-one likes the Drashigs but you!
  12. Four to Doomsday
    Good opening episode with the Monopticons and all, but what follows is deathly dull, and with a basically unconvincing central performance by Peter Davison. Adric and Tegan are at possibly their most irritating too. And that is saying something.
  13. The Invasion of Time
    Good things here include the Doctor-Borusa relationship and a suitably eccentric glimpse at the inner depths of the TARDIS. Bad things include pretty much everything else: the Vardans are an interesting concept that doesn't pan out at all well on screen, Andred is a supra-bland 'hero', 'The wisdom of Rassilon' bit is cheap quasi-religioso bullshit, seemingly there as a Doctor Who analogue for the Force in Star Wars, and Leela is not so much 'written out' of the show as 'scribbled out'. With crayons. Or potato-halves dipped in paint.
  14. The Invisible Enemy
    I like the opening episode and the 'great breakout' setup with its future-history building. Really, a whole season could have been devoted to mankind's expansion throughout the galaxies, taking in various colony planets along the way. The Swarm's an interesting enemy too (if not technically invisible!). But miniature clones sequence is mishandled (the Doctor and Leela's clothes are cloned too?! They don't mind that they're going to die in ten minutes?), and - worst of all for me - the ending is botched and throwaway, casually making a hypocrite out of the Doctor and not caring that it does.
  15. Kinda
    (I promise I won't mention the B-word!)
    I'm all for efforts to break the mould in theory, but as this story demonstrates, they don't always work out. A theme of unleashed sexuality is hushed up by a production team who, er, didn't want to unleash any sexuality in their kiddie show, and Tegan is not yet established enough to have her psychological depths explored.
  16. The King's Demons
    The Master is by this point reduced to some transtemporal pillock, trying to faff around with Earth history in rather silly ways just because, well, that's what bad guys do.
  17. Millennial Rites
    A right load of hyperbolics. Hinton's capable of some punchy wordplay (Cybrids, Technomancers etc), and you can imagine the story outline for this looking pretty good. But it fails completely in the execution.
  18. Mindwarp
    Dear Joey Ford can find the good in almost anything, but I just can't agree with his generous assessment of this mess. Its a horrible confirmation of the 'running around in tunnels' stereotype of Doctor Who, the abrupt changes back and forth in tone between camp and deadly straightfaced making it come across like an intercutting of Adam West Batman with Tim Burton Batman. Most jarring example: the scene where Peri is mentally erased, where she is - in all but body - killed, ends with a comedy comment from Sil that we seem to be expected to laugh at. Brian Blessed is entertaining, 'You... killed Peri' is perhaps Colin Baker's finest moment - but that's the problem; these disparate elements just don't belong in the same story.
  19. Planet of the Daleks
    See Death to the Daleks. Same goes, really.
  20. The Power of Kroll
    No comment necessary, I reckon.
  21. The Quantum Archangel
    Millennial Rites amplified a quintillion times. To use one of Craig Hinton's favourite words.
  22. The Shadows of Avalon
    The novel where Paul Cornell chucked out the 'bread and butter' of his regular fist-page dedication, and opted to drown us in honey alone. It's a riff on Battlefield, for God's sake. Stubborn NA references abound. Sexed-up Time Lords Cavis and Gandar are two of the most irritating villains you've ever read about, sort of like one of those couples having foreplay virtually on top of you on the Piccadilly line, but homicidal with it. Almost as an aside, there's a plot thread where Compassion feels a bit peaky for a bit and then, whoops, she's a TARDIS. Basically it's a bad, clumsy marriage of semi-original story to ongoing story arc.
  23. Silver Nemesis
    Like you've just watched Remembrance of the Daleks, wondered what a Cyberman-starring equivalent would be like, then went to bed having eaten too much cheese.
  24. The Slow Empire
    Dave Stone's worst. I can't even remember how it ended, I was that bored.
  25. The Sontaran Experiment
    Often rediscovered as a bit of a forgotten gem, but I think it's just cheapo filler that doesn't make much sense. Would the Sontarans really give up so pathetically easily?
  26. Sword of Orion
    My initial suspicion about the audios, not having much knowledge of radio plays and such, was that they'd be a lot more 'flat' than TV Doctor Who. This was my first one and it entirely confirmed that suspicion. Lucky for me I persevered and discovered this two-disc epic of tedium was not representative of BF's output.
  27. The Telemovie
    A shambolic 'remix' of The Deadly Assassin, with a nonsensical hyped-up plot glossed over by run-of-the-mill special effects. This was made during my 'non-Who' decade (between the ages of about 12 and 22 when I forgot all about the Doctor entirely), and it didn't entice me back to the fold. I can only imagine how disappointing this would have been were I an NA reader at the time. Paul McGann's good, though.
  28. Terminus
    F-minus more like. Incredibly dull for those of us who don't much care whether they see Nyssa in her undies or not. It's not even that good for those who do.
    (there's a fan theory, I believe, that any story with 'Time' in the title is bound to be an unmitigated disaster. Unless I just made that up. Five of 'em have made their way onto my list though...)
  29. Time and the Rani
    By any objective standard a nightmare, it is oddly enjoyable, in a sort of 'fiddling while Rome burns' type of way - laughing philosophically while a once-great show goes tits up so spectacularly it beggars belief. Um, the bit where the Doctor causes the big brain to go schizophrenic is actually rather good, though, a bit of genuinely Whoish humour amidst all the bad panto.
  30. Time-Flight
    Why is the Master in disguise?! WHY???!!
  31. The Time Monster
    I just couldn't make it through this one. At some point, though, I woke up and saw the 'daisiest daisy' scene, which is great. Nodded off again afterwards.
  32. Timelash
    Again, just unwatchably poor. Not a very controversial choice, I know.
  33. Timewyrm: Exodus
    Slightly more controversial, I'd guess, since everyone seems to unaccountably love this loathesome travesty. Like that Helen 'I'm just a girl' Fielding's Olivia Joules book, this has such a monstrously crass and repellent lack of basic human empathy at its core that storytelling competence simply ceases to matter. Forget Warmonger (and believe me, I've tried to do just that), this is the 'Uncle Terry' book I'd like to D-Mat out of existence.
  34. The Twin Dilemma
    I don't mind Colin Baker's instability, and I actually think that bit where he literally hides behind Peri's skirt is so out of character that it's funny. I even like his ballsy attitude in his confrontation with Mestor ('In my time I have been threatened by experts, and I don't rate you very highly at all'). But storywise this isn't much cop, and Peter Moffat consolidates his position as Who's Dullest Director.
  35. The Ultimate Foe
    Fourteen weeks is indeed a long wait just to blow up a screen. This contains some of Robert Holmes' best work, stuff he'd been building towards in Deadly Assassin and Two Doctors, and I do find it odd that the 'Time Lords destroy Earth' thing somehow got forgotten by continuity-obsessed fandom (unlike, say, the destruction of Skaro). Colin Baker gets a classic Doctorly rant too. Still, this two-parter must be the very dictionary definition of 'anticlimax', all the good stuff drowning in incoherent dribble. With the Master chucked in just for the hell of it.
  36. Underworld
    Well, you see, the thing about Underw... zzzzzz.....
  37. Vengeance on Varos
    Phillip Martin just couldn't write Doctor Who. He had good ideas, he created an interesting race of monsters - but he didn't bother to write them into halfway decent scripts. With Vengeance he seems to believe that having a satrirical setup for a story is the same as writing a satire, but it's not. This serial is structured so witlessly, with so little understanding of how the series - or indeed storytelling - works, that I just can't understand how it's gained so much respect lately. As Mike Morris succinctly pointed out, it's supposed to be criticising bad television - but it is bad television.
  38. The Visitation
    It's that Moffat man again! A pretty good script turned unforgiveably lacklustre through poor direction. Lot of that about in the Davison era.
  39. Warmonger
    This is so, well first of all bad, but also so badly out of whack with the TV stories it's supposed to be set between, even the least continuity-obsessed of us can only think of it as an 'Elseworld', if at all. Hmm, which would make it an apocryphal Morbius story... which means that, had Terrance been forcibly stopped halfway through, Paul Magrs could have stepped in and written the second half of the book, and it would probably have been great. Never mind Deadly Reunion; that's the collaboration I'd like to see!
  40. Warriors of the Deep
    I would like to see the well-directed, atmospherically-lit version of this that doesn't have that man from the furniture ads or Ingrid Pitt's kung fu in it. But this just seems too unprofessional to let pass by.
So that's my spleen vented... must find something I like to write nice things about next time...


Top Ten Doctor Performances by Terrence Keenan 3/1/04

Self- explanatory. Thes are the best performances by the actor in the title role. Each Doctor gets at least one nod, because each of them had at least one tour-de-force go round.

10. Colin Baker in Revelation of the Daleks
Why: It was really the first time showed a full range of emotions as the Doctor, as well as showing he didn't have to be in full ham mode. It's a very subtle, strong performance.

09. Peter Davison in Kinda
Why: It's a subtle, deep performance. Davison manages to channel both youth and deep experience, play the fool and the wise man and have it all come from within the same character.

08. William Hartnell in The Aztecs
Why: He's big blustery Bill in the scenes with Barbara, but you see his softer and more charming facade in the scenes with Cameca.

07. Tom Baker in The Androids of Tara
Why: Big Tommy B is in full blown comedy mode for most of the serial, and then he turns on a dime during the sword fight and becomes so Doctorish, it makes you want to jump for joy.

06. Tom Baker in The Ark in Space
Why: Tom really takes off in Ark, showins the various nuances that would define his Hinchcliffe/Holmes era persona. The best scene is in episode three, when he links up with the Wirrn group mind, and you think, "bugger! the Doctor really is possessed!"

05. Sylvester McCoy in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
Why: Syl is always best when he underplays the part of the Doctor. it's a subtler, more complete portrayal of his Doctor and just leaps off the screen.

04. Patrick Troughton in The War Games
Why: Not that the Mighty Trout ever gave a bad performance ever. The War Games is just a complete showcase of what Troughton could do.

03. Jon Pertwee in The Silurians
Why: Pertwee really comes into his own in this serial. He never makes a misstep and shows a wide variety of sides.

02. Peter Davison in The Caves of Androzani
Why: It's the way Peter wanted to play the Doctor from the beginning.

01. Tom Baker in The Seeds of Doom
Why: In the span of six episodes, Tom Baker manages to weave about twenty different personas into the Doctor and make them all come off as a single character.


Top Ten Companion performances by Terrence Keenan 5/1/04

Self-explanatory.

10. Katy Manning in Carnival of Monsters
Why: She's less bubbly, a bit smarter and comes off as an adult.

09. Sophie Aldred in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
Why: Sophie underplays Ace, and manages to show her reacting to events and people in a more adult fashion.

08. Elisabeth Sladen in The Time Warrior
Why: Lis takes Bob Holmes script and runs with it, and establishes instant rapport with Jon Pertwee.

07. Janet Fielding in Kinda
Why: Janet not only gets to play a bit more nuanced Tegan, but also gets to run with a real dark side when Tegan's possessed by the Mara.

06. Lalla Ward in Warriors' Gate
Why: She gets to play a lot of sides in Romana. She's the star of the show, but manages to also bring the other members of the cast up to her level.

05. Caroline John in Inferno
Why: Well, Not only is Might Liz Shaw awesome, as always, she manages to make the parallel Earth Shaw nasty and militaristic, while showing her opening up under the Doctor's influence.

04. Mary Tamm in The Armageddon Factor
Why: Well Mary Tamm was brill throughout Season 16, but it's in Armageddon that you see the birth of the female Doctor idea that Lalla Ward would get to run with. Mary gets to show a lot of sides and does it very well.

03. Katy Manning in The Mind of Evil
Why: For once, Jo is not a flibbertigibit, but a real spy. Katy gets to show a tough side and a mothering instinct, and make it seem natural.

02. Louise Jameson in Horror of Fang Rock
Why: It's Leela at her balls to the wall best.

01. Elisabeth Sladen in The Hand of Fear
Why: Because Lis sings not only in the big moments -- the possession, her good-bye scene -- but also in the small moments with Tom. Just Brill.


Dance Fever! The Top Doctor Who Bust-A-Move moments by Terrence Keenan 6/1/04

Deep down, everyone has that urge to make like Gene Kelly and Dance! Dance! Dance! Yes, even the characters (and monsters) that exist in the Whoniverse. These are the best of the best:

The Ice Warrior Fling (The Seeds of Death) -- In The Seeds of Death, an Ice Warrior comes out of a T-Mat receptacle and starts bopping along to his own beat. Why? He's just a dancing fool, that's why.

The Shirna Carny Shuffle (Carnival of Monsters) -- Shirna is not only Vorg's lovely assistant, but she can bust a move in between showings on the miniscope. She must have been a chorus girl at one point.

The Sacred Demnos Waltz (The Masque of Mandragora) -- Although a waltz, it's very Martha Graham. Lots of off time steps, hand raising and the occasional spin and backward movement. Plus, you get to shoot bolts from your fingers when you're done.

The White Person Masque Two Step (The Masque of Mandragora) -- So much fun that even dear old Sarah Jane Smith joins in with Guliano -- although I guess he really wants to partner up with Marco....

The Devil's End Maypole Dance, with Morris Dancers (The Daemons) -- It's really nice to see the Doctor, Jo and Benton participate in celebratory pagan fertility rites after saving the world. By the way, what the fuck is a Morris Dancer? What do they do besides beat large sticks against each other? And why do they wear lederhosen?

The Black Orchid Charleston (Black Orchid) -- Who knew that Miss Wannabe Human League fan Tegan Jovanka could Charleston? She's a natural.

The Sisterhood of Karn Teleportation Dance (The Brain of Morbius) -- this is very Twyla Tharp, mixed with Shields and Yarnell. Lost of stuttering hand movements, as if they were gophers climbing out of a hole.

The Sisterhood of Karn Circle Death Skank (The Brain of Morbius) -- Far more aggressive. It uses spins, twirls and torches. Not to mention some really weird chanting. Useful for starting fires.

The Mighty Kroll Swampie Stomp (The Power of Kroll) -- It's a simple beat and you can jog along to it. Any dance you can do with spears is cool, and not only is it aerobically healthy, but the chant is easy to remember, too!


Ten Notable Sets of Legs by Mike Morris 10/1/03

  1. Alpha Centauri's Legs. Or rather, lack of legs. The natives of Alpha Centauri are strange creatures; quite how in the name of all that's sensible they evolved with six arms and no legs is beyond all reason. Instead, Alpha Centauri had to bounce along on a sort of squishy blobby thing at its base. Presumably the production team felt it didn't look enough like a penis already.
  2. The Eight-Legs' Legs. Oh all right, spiders then. On Metebelis III it seems that most creatures were identified by how many legs they had. Perhaps this was why the colonists left Earth in the first place; the profusion of four-legged animals must have been insanely confusing.
  3. Liz Shaw's Legs. Long before Peri's breasts became companions in their own right, Liz Shaw's legs achieved similar independence. There was a nice gratuitous shot of them fairly early on in Spearhead from Space, and from there they became the star of the show; Liz shattered the record for television's shortest skirt in Doctor Who and the Silurians, then bested that record in The Ambassadors of Death. Their last hurrah was in a short-skirted fascist "getup" with knee-length leather boots. Of course, there was nothing sexist about this at all; Liz's legs were given such focus simply to show how she never fell over or twisted her ankle, marking her out as the Doctor's most independent bit of totty yet. Mould-breaking stuff.
  4. The Wirrn's legs. Ooh, the Wirrn were scary weren't they? Oh no, wait a minute, actually they were a bit crap. Particularly crap were their legs, which struggled to open a simple cabinet door at one point. There's a blissful moment in the story when Sarah Jane is caught by one of the Wirrn's legs and has to struggle against it. Lis Sladen deserved a BAFTA just for not laughing.
  5. Season One's Legs. There^s a fairly strong message running through Season One; alien races all have something wrong with their legs. First up were the Daleks, who had no legs at all. Daft as this seemed - legs are pretty useful, all told - at least they had the guts to go all the way with the concept. The Sensorites, by contrast, all had rather useless legs with big circular feet - their funny flat noses were presumably an evolutionary remnant of millennia of tripping and falling splat on their faces. As if this weren't enough, we were also presented with the Voord, who had a similar problem to the Sensorites and frequently fell over their own flippers; and that's before we get started on the Doctor's companions and The Peril Of The Twisted Ankle. The moral of the story is; if a lifeform can't travel up stairs without difficulty, it's got problems.
  6. The Opteras' Legs. Most of the monsters in the Hartnell era must surely have been cooked up under the influence of some wonderful drugs. The mutated cousins of the Menoptra are no exception; they have one big leg and have to hop everywhere. Brilliant! I reckon they were inspired by the sign for women's public toilets (does anyone know why these things depict women as having a single huge central leg?), and they are just about the daftest creature to appear in Doctor Who. Except for maybe the Zarbi. I do love The Web Planet.
  7. Tegan's Legs. Because she was just a mouth on legs, you know. Big mouth. Great legs. Best companion ever. Enough said.
  8. Stike's Legs. One of which suffered something of an amputation after a mistake with a Kartz-Reimer time capsule which attempted entry into the Time Vortex without a Briode Nebuliser symbiotically primed with the necessary Rassillon Imprimature. Gosh, that's what I call accessible family drama. However, Stike's detached leg is just one of a number of scenes in The Two Doctors that revolves around legs. The Doctor is wounded by Shockeye in the leg; the space station computer tracks the Doctor and Peri by their feet; Jamie's legs are tenderised by Shockeye; and Dastari gives a metaphorical "leg up" to the Androgum's evolution. It's possible that Robert Holmes was using legs as a telling metaphor for life and self-preservation, symbolic as they are of the instinct for flight and by extension survival (Disclaimer; it's also possible he wasn't).
  9. The Giant Robot's Legs. When the Brigadier used that ray-gun thing on the K1 robot, he didn't bargain on it causing the robot to grow to gigantic proportions. But then, the robot probably didn't guess it would make his legs disappear intermittently. The K1 robot got a bit of a raw deal really, all it did was take a shine to Sarah Jane and play with toy tanks, sins that most young male viewers would have pleaded guilty to, and as a result got reduced to a pile of rust. A harsh lesson; but the robot's vanishing legs are perhaps symbolic of the impotence and alienation caused by the insecurities of the adolescent male in an unsympathetic world. Maybe? No? Oh, fine...
  10. Billy's Legs. Which didn't alter in the slightest when he turned into a Chimeron. I've heard many gripes from people who can't understand how a bit of alien nosh could turn Billy into another species, even though the script explains it in perfectly lucid fashion. I've had enough; listen up.

    Earlier on Billy and Goronwy are talking about bees, and Goronwy tells him how the Queen Bee is an ordinary worker bee when young "until she's fed with Royal Jelly, her physiology changes, and she turns into a Queen". Billy then says, pointedly, "It's that simple? A change of diet?"

    He goes off and starts guzzling the food which Delta has fed to the child. The child, you might remember, was an ordinary slimy green Chimeron when young - until she was fed with the special food, her physiology changed, and she turned into a Chimeron Queen. So, not surprisingly, when Billy eats the same food, his physiology changes and becomes similar to that of Delta and the child. Because THAT'S WHAT THE FOOD IS FOR!

    Is it really so difficult to grasp?

    Okay, so Billy's legs were a bit of a weak excuse to move onto that topic, but I just needed to clear it up. In fact there's very little in Delta and the Bannermen connected with legs, although some might say it was a sure sign that the show was on its last legs... but I don't. So there.


Doctor Who Fashion Triumphs (TARDIS crew only) by Terrence Keenan 12/1/04

Yeah, it's a rip-off from a couple other contributors (Joe Ford & Rob Matthews), but I'm in a fashion mood, so here are the winners, in no particular order.

Jamie's Kilt (The Two Doctors) -- The New One with the shoulder cover thingy. Makes Jamie look majestic.

Romana's School Girl Uniform (City of Death) -- Not only does Lalla Ward look awesome in it, the uniform acts as character commentary.

Liz Shaw's mini-dress (The Silurians) -- It's a dress that manages to be classy and show off Caroline John's supercallifragilistic legs.

Romana's White Dress (The Ribos Operation) -- The Gorgeous Mary Tamm in a white dress, funky boots, and a white furry hoodie/cloak thing that makes her look majestic and very very hot.

Tegan's short suit (Snakedance) -- Janet Fielding could work a miniskirt, but it's actually this shorts and long sleeve top ensemble (and short haircut) that really brings out her best.

Leela's borrowed sweater & jeans (Horror of Fang Rock) -- When one thinks of Leela, one thinks of leather. But, when Louise Jameson's is in the sweater and jeans, we can see how good looking she is without trying to stare at her breasts.

The 4th Doctor Variations -- Love them all, even the season 18 burgundy version. Technically it was a costume, but Tom made it look like clothes.

The 7th Doctor Dark look -- I'll forgive the sweater. However, the rest looks really good on Syl, and for the first time since Tom, it doesn't look like a costume.

Romana's Oriental theme (Warriors' Gate) -- Lalla Ward looks so adorable in that red blouse. Then again, she could wear sackcloth and look brilliant.

Romana's red dress (The Stones of Blood) -- Woof. The Gorgeous Mary Tamm was made to wear dresses like this. Absolutely stunning.

Romana's white dress (The Armageddon Factor) WOOF!!!!!!!! See the red dress entry.

Romana's pink ensemble (Destiny of the Daleks) The Adorable Lalla Ward in pink is a beautiful thing. Woof.

Sarah Jane Smith's pink striped overalls (The Hand of Fear) -- It's just on the edge of awful, but works so well on Lis Sladen. It also shows off that fabulous booty of hers.

Turlough goes casual (Planet of Fire) -- Mark Strickson is finally out of the uniform, shows some leg, doesn't look ridiculous in a speedo and most of all, looks relaxed for the first time in the show.

Sarah Jane Smith's suit (The Time Warrior) -- She looks classy, determined. And it shows off that awesome Lis booty. Woof!!!

Ace's fashion protest Tuxedo (Ghost Light) -- Sophie doesn't do much for me, but she does rock a tuxedo.


Doctor Who Fashion Disasters (TARDIS crew only) by Terrence Keenan 13/1/04

Does this need any explanations? Didn't think so. These looks transcend eras.

The 6th Doctor's costume -- Technicolor nightmare. There's nothing else to say.

Peri's orange shorts/top (Attack of the Cybermen) -- It screams "Please look at my tits!" It makes Nicola Bryant look cheap.

Tegan's air hostess uniform -- Look, Janet Fielding has gone and joined The Human League.

Peri's period frock (The Mark of the Rani) -- Pimp slaps need to be issued to whoever decided that ugly yellow and red dress would look good on anyone.

The Jo Grant Variations -- We do think Katy Manning is cute. Really we do, but my goodness, three years of fashion nightmares leaves a lot to be desired.

Nyssa's Brown ensembles -- Never liked the tutu, nor the pants variation. It's not the color, but the puffiness that makes Sarah Sutton look awful.

Adric's pajamas -- Must we travel down this road?

Ace's skirt ensemble (Remembrance of the Daleks) -- We just need to accept that Sophie Aldred is a pants kind of girl. Also, lose the bomber jacket.

Zoe's Cat Suit (The Mind Robber) -- In one aspect, it's a complete turn-on. But a spangly cat suit? No.

Sarah Jane Smith's gauchos (Terror of the Zygons) -- Yeah, even Lis Sladen slipped up now and then. The boots help a bit, but still can't cover up the overall ugliness.

Peri's tie-front blouse (The Two Doctors) The obsession with Nicola's breasts reaches a low point. And while I'm on it, whoever told Nicola to cut her hair when she joined the show needs a big foot up the ass.

The Mel Bush Variations -- I think Bonnie Langford is cute. I really do. It's the whole redhead thing. But.. what she's wearing... Aaaauuuggghhhh!!!!!

Turlough's School uniform -- Whenever I see Mark Strickson in this, I think of a mortician. That's not a good sign.

The 5th Doctor's ensemble -- It does make you think of Peter Davison automatically, and the jacket and sweater are all right. But those pants are diabolical. Methinks JNT loved stripes a bit too much.

Leela's borrowed Outsider cloak -- Think Liberace meets Sheena, Queen of the Jungle and wince....


Ten books I recommend to Who fans by Rob Matthews 14/1/04

Talk about procrastination - I came up with the idea for this list some two years ago! A fella called Martin Gardner had posted a top ten list of Sci-Fi movies Doctor Who fans should watch, and though I took note of his suggestions, I nevertheless thought to myself, 'Hmm, well that's making the assumption that Doctor Who fans are necessarily sci-fi fans', which for me isn't really true. So I decided to come up with a list of non sci-fi stuff that bears a likeness to Who - in characterisation, tone, attitude and stuff. After all, one of the most interesting things about TV Doctor Who was the way the beautiful but naive premise was counterpointed by a sophisticated level of semiotic thickness and literate intelligence in the scripting which was understated - in fact actively disguised - by the fast-paced narrative structure and associated conventions, giving the whole production a multilayered cohesion which could be enjoyed in an accessible but very real and satisfying way.

Heh heh, okay - I nicked that last bit from Mike Morris, but though he was taking the piss with the verbiage the gist is perfectly true - one of the best things about Doctor Who as a fiction is that it doesn't simply look up its own arse for inspiration. Doctor Who on TV had a host of literary influences which it wore proudly on its sleeve (I always think of the seamless Asimov/Christie/Herbert bootleg that was The Robots of Death), and became a branch of children's literature in its own right with the Target novelisations. Its transition to occasional 'proper' literature - nudged along most forcefully by Paul Cornell with Timewyrm: Revelation, Kate Orman with Set Piece, Larry Miles with Interference and Dead Romance - has been quite a natural one. Doctor Who has a unique ability to introduce the viewer/reader to other works, to crib from movies, books and TV shows of just about every sort without losing its own distinctive character. That, er, 'heterogeneric' quality is in my humble opinion one of the most rewarding things about it.

So, for those who are interested, here's the fiction I'd recommend to fellow Who fans -

  1. From Hell by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell
    Who relevance: Like seemingly innumerable Doctor Who stories this is a stylised recreation and examination of Victorian England. It sort of resembles Marc Platt's Ghost Light in its density of themes and motifs - appearances by Queen Victoria herself, Karl Marx, John Merrick, Robert Louis Stevenson, Hitler's parents, Aleister Crowley and more, and it involves a few scenes of spectral time travel used to make a stunning comparsion of epochs. Fiercely intelligent (the supplementary notes and appendix strip 'Dance of the gull catchers' are comparable to fantastic DVD extras), it is literally one zillion times better than the movie. And remains respectful to the reality, too - Moore takes this version of events seriously, but never actually believes it.
    Who contrast: It's rightly and horrifyingly explicit.
  2. His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman (Northern Light, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass)
    Who relevance: Well, it concerns alternate universes, champions underdog heroes, and prizes freedom, compassion and love over dogma and an oppressive establishment. It's very, very much in the Doctor Who spirit, circa season 14 (in fact Who only offended Mary Whitehouse - Pullman has had Catholics burning copies of his work like they were stray Dead Sea scrolls). Unpatronising and deservedly popular children's fiction, it's like a Neptunes remix of Doctor Who. Or something.
  3. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
    Who relevance: I mention this because it must be the only chunk of notorious contemporary literature to include a Doctor Who reference; Mr Rushdie refers to The Mutants and - according to David J Howe - completely misinterprets it as being encouraging of racist attitudes (haven't seen The Mutants myself so I can't make the call). Sad that even an extremely imaginative author like Rushdie would make such a mistake about the show - though if he'd have said something similar about Tomb of the Cybermen I'd have to concede he was right.
  4. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
    Who relevance: Sherlock Holmes was perhaps the first rationalist hero figure, and this is still his best showcase. Manipulating his 'companion' Doctor Watson, charging around a creepily atmospheric environment fending off red herrings and poking holes in superstitious guff, it's obvious that he was a big influence - even if an unconscious one - on the character of the Doctor. 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' even sounds like a stereotypical 'Xxx of the Xxx' Doctor Who story title. A wonderfully crafted piece of hokum.
  5. The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
    Who relevance: An intriguing influence on Revelation of the Daleks, this small, cruel beautifully told story doesn't bear a great deal of resemblance to that big, cruel beautifully directed story. But it made for a nice introduction to Waugh for me.
  6. The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin
    Who relevance: A rollicking taradiddle about a disappearing toyshop and corpse, this 1946 comic-crime thriller was recommended by Gareth Roberts in his online Well Mannered War intro as being 'more Doctor Who than Doctor Who.' More accurately, you could describe at a being more Gareth Roberts than Gareth Roberts, but the playful yet serious yet playful (sic) tone did very much remind me of Williams-era Who at its best. And the Oxford setting made it hard not to think of the similar, Cambridge-based Shada. I mentally cast Tom Baker circa 1985 as Gervase Fen and a young Lalla Ward as Sally, and they fitted perfectly. In fact, you could easily imagine this as a sort of Human Nature for the Fourth Doctor - three decades before he was on TV, this is Tom's Doctor as a mortal man. Sadly it's also out of print. But there was at least one copy left in the Murder One bookshop in Charing Cross Road when last I checked :-)
  7. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
    Who contrast: We're so used to the 'objective' view of time presented in Doctor Who fiction, it's humbling to be reminded of what time really is on the human scale, our lives measured in wrinkles and the body's memory. And though we can't literally visit the furthest reaches of space and time, this is the closest you'll get to the Belle Epoque without a TARDIS.
    Who relevance: For some people, small beautiful events are what life is all about! Um, and occasional bits of imagery made me think of Who; the narrator travels through space and time in his armchair (metaphorically), like the Keeper of Traken. He shucks off various 'selves' over time (metaphorically). He conjures up a town from a teacup (metaphorically), like the Time Lords conjured up a universe in a bottle. Albertine is bigger on the inside (metaphorically - are you seeing a pattern here?). And of course, he battles an invading Dalek task force by smearing Madeleines all over their eye stalks. Okay, I made that bit up.
  8. Atomised by Michel Houellebecq
    Who relevance: Nominally tracking the libido of a pair of a middle-aged pair of brothers, the overwhelmingly bleakness and society-encompassing sense of scale reminded me tonally of Lawrence Miles' Dead Romance. Also the final, cruel twist and the shocking yet seethingly intelligent overturning of deeply held humanist values; it leaves you feeling exhilarated and horrified at the same time. It's also in some loose sense a science fiction novel, though you don't realise it until the end, and it remains unlikely to end up on the shelf next to William Gibson at your local Ottakars.
    Who contrast: Obviously one thing Doctor Who fiction can't do is focus this hard on sexual need. That said, Chris Cwej's agonised shag with Christine Summerfield was a good example of a sex scene that's really about human desperation.
  9. The White Hotel by DM Thomas
    Who relevance: I mentioned in reviewing the IMO highly offensive Timewyrm: Exodus that recent history is not something to played about with for light entertainment purposes... (I also made a reference to the Taliban that became a lot more pertinent between my writing the review and its being posted, and I hope that didn't come across as equally on the nose) ..., so I'm citing this as a piece of fiction that does manage to build its narrative around real, terrible events without cheapening them. Quite ingeniously it avoids becoming an 'emotional pornography' work by actually being pornography in its first few chapters. And like certain Doctor Who historicals it features a real person as a character - in this case Freud.
    Who contrast: Well, there's the sex again, obviously. And it goes without saying that Doctor Who could never go anywhere remotely near this kind of material. I feel rather silly even making comparisons, except that this book so starkly illustrates Robert Shearman's 'You have never seen history. What you've seen is someone else's present day' ethos, which for me is very important.
  10. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
    Who relevance: A short Victorian chiller and at the same time an allegory about the stifling of women in a patriarchal society, this is an excellent demonstration of pulp with (then) subversive subtext. This has been attempted occasionally in Who with varying degrees of success - The Happiness Patrol (Thatcher is crap!), Survival (Thatcher is crap!), Warriors of the Deep (the Cold War is crap!), Terror of the Autons (plastic products are crap!), Vengeance on Varos (television is crap!), The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (Doctor Who is, er, crap?), Masque of Mandragora (homosexuals rock!), Ghost Light (change is cool!) -, but Gilman's book is a neat example of lucid agenda and lurid storytelling kept on an even keel.
Er, was also gonna recommend Ballard's High-Rise which inspired Paradise Towers, but then remembered that despite its being a pretty slim volume it was an almost unbearable read, so to say I 'recommend' it would be a lie. Anyway, to the two of you who've read this far: thanks!


A list of things to accept as a Who Fan by Terrence Keenan 15/1/04

Partially inspired by Rob Matthews list of debunking Who myths (Testify!), partially by me coming to terms about certain biases of my own in regards to Who, what follows is a list of things to make peace with as a Who fan.

Doctor Who isn't really science fiction.
It's escapist entertainment that melds science fiction, fantasy and magic realism. It delves into comedy, horror (Gothic and other strains), tragedy, historical fiction and numerous other "categories". It may use sci-fi concepts more often than other, but the basic premise is a police box that can travel the universe in any time. Total Fantasy.

The special effects leave a little to be desired.
Please, everybody knows that the Myrka, Kroll, The Magma Beast, the Slyther, the Ogron "God" and numerous other monster creations are horseshit. Yes, Who used blue screen (CSO). They used cheap model work. There's no need to comment on these things anymore.

Good stories make the best Who.
Sorry, this is the truth. If you don't have a story then it's not good Who. And story doesn't necessarily mean plot. Ghost Light tells a complex and wonderful story, but the plot is middling. Same with The Caves of Androzani, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, Kinda and others.

Interesting Characters are essential for great Who.
You really want to know the real success of the Williams era. Just look at the Characters: Scaroth, Duggan, The Graf Vynda-K, Binro the Heretic, Garron and Unstoffe, Grendel, Madam Lamia, The Doctor, Romana (both of them), K9, Drax, Borusa and more. In The War Games, you have the War Lord, the Security Chief and the War Chief, all of them brilliant. The Ambassadors of Death has Reegan. It's the characters that make viewing compelling, above all else.

The Daleks have rarely been done properly.
There are five stories where the Daleks really come off as true scary monsters: Power, Evil, Genesis, Resurrection and Revelation. I'm not denigrating the other pepperpot tales, but it's in these five that you see them moving beyond the "Exterminate!" cliches.

A consistent continuity is not a necessity in Who.
True. Does the fact that Genesis of the Daleks turn old Dalek continuity into a train wreck make it worse? No. Is it the end of the world that Atlantis was destroyed three times? No. Truth be told, I love all the little continuity clashes in Who. It's part of the charm. It's fun to debate on the side, but it's not an essential part of Who. (Note: I hope that the New Who series being planned tosses out all the old continuity and creates something new and exciting.)

Not everyone will like the same stories, so get over it and don't make it personal.
This is not a slam against debate about Who, but a plea for tolerance of other viewpoints. A short time ago, I got dragged into a pissing match with someone I thought was a comrade over which book line was better. I tried to debate the issues, but he seemed more angry that I had a different opinion than him, and tried to make it personal. Right after that, I almost got into another one on Fenric. C'mon gang, it's only a kid's TV show. Lighten up.

There are no classic stories.
Hoo Boy. Please stop calling certain stories "classic" Doctor Who. I've done it before, but it's a pointless thing to do. Why? I'm going to sound pedantic, but methinks that since Who has such a wide variety of styles, formats, and themes, quantifying what makes a "classic" story is a bit obtuse. For me with Who, classic becomes a synonym of derivative, which is a really bad thing. Who is best when it looks forward and tries new stuff on for size.


Ten Reviews To Have A Peek At by Mike Morris 19/1/04

These are ten of the pieces I've enjoyed most of all in the years I've been posting. I say "ten of", rather than "the ten", because I wanted to get a cross-section of all the different types of review that pop up on this site; to help with this I've limited myself to one review per person. I've also tried to avoid pieces that other people have listed elsewhere. So I'll stress that this isn't a top ten as such, just ten bloody good reviews; oh, and they're in alphabetic order.

Andrew McCaffrey's review of Mad Dogs and Englishmen: Andrew McCaffrey has, for some time now, been posting balanced, accurate and infuriatingly right reviews of the Doctor Who novels and he's one of the reviewers I trust most. This one made me think (for a second or so) that perhaps 'd been a bit harsh on Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Andrew didn't quite make me change my mind, but he did make me laugh repeatedly at his conspiracy theory that BBC Books were trying to make us all blind.

Andrew Wixon's Life in the Year Of...: Andrew's reviews are bloody good in their own right, particularly around the Sixth Doctor's era. However, he won my awe by undertaking the mammoth task (known to some as the "Tim Roll-Pickering") of watching all stories, in chronological order, in a year. It's quite a feat, and his conclusions in this piece are very interesting and presented in a very modest way.

Finn Clark's review of Imperial Moon: Finn Clark is Mr Novel Reviewer at this stage. Not only has he read pretty much every Doctor Who book ever, but he analyses them unfussily and brilliantly. Finn has an ability to rip a bad book to sub-molecular pieces, so although he's come up with a fair few thoughtful critiques in his time I really couldn't resist picking him in negative mode. I was tempted by his piece on Byzantium!, just for describing the book as like a "diarrhoea mouthwash" (oh my). However the conceit behind this piece on Imperial Moon is so funny and clever that it got the nod.

Graeme Burk's review of The Caught on Earth Arc: I remember reading Graeme Burk's review of Interference and thinking, "Bloody hell, this guy's a cut above the rest of us." He isn't the site's most prolific contributor, but when he's got something to say you know it'll be good. This dissection of a very important six-book series is definitive.

Joe Ford's and Tim Roll Pickering's pieces on John Nathan-Turner: Okay, so I'm cheating, but these two pieces work absolutely beautifully as a pair. I was initially going to choose Joe's tribute, which like everything Joe writes was personal, passionate, honest and loving. I thought it was a very brave and beautiful piece, and I admired Joe enormously for writing it... and then, having a look to refresh my memory, I scrolled down to Tim Roll-Pickering's balanced and thoughtful dissection of JNT's tenure, which is wonderful in its own right and kicks off Joe's piece beautifully.

Matthew Harris' review of The Trial of a Time Lord: Self-proclaimed Captain Tangent (Wasn't he a Mysteron Agent?), Matthew "Fictional Middle Names" Harris has been known to embark on a digression or two in his time. Personally I almost always find his reviews very funny. His piece on The Trial of a Time Lord travels all round the houses in its quest for humour, and not only is it very funny, but it's deceptively sharp beneath all the anecdotes. All Matthew's pieces are fun and good-natured, except maybe his review of The Sun Makers where he seems a bit annoyed with someone or other...

Peter Jermey's review of Resurrection of the Daleks: This edges out the pseudonymous "Thomas Jefferson's" suspiciously similar review of Planet of Fire... but I've gone for this piece not just because it's gut-weakeningly funny, but because I think it's the most accurate assessment of Resurrection I've read, that highlights the glossy padding and intriguingly postulates that this most Dalek-ish story would be better without the Daleks in it. In case you haven't checked this out yet, it's four very funny episode synopses, leading to a concluding statement that sums up Resurrection of the Daleks perfectly, and is possibly the single greatest sentence on this website. I shamelessly tried to copy the style on one occasion, but I couldn't possibly match this.

Rob Matthews' review of Season 26: Picking only one of Rob's pieces is nigh-on impossible; nobody's able to seriously analyse a story like him (although he's still able to produce a good rant; see his piece on Dying in the Sun) and I can't express how much I respect him. His reviews are things of thoughtful beauty. After a lot of thought I've gone for his review of Season 26 as his best, partly because Terrence Keenan's already mentioned his Fourth Doctor piece, and partly because this is an astonishingly perceptive critique that highlights similarities and differences between each story that I'd never noticed, strengthening the argument that this is one of Doctor Who's strongest periods.

Robert Smith?'s review of The Ancestor Cell: Again, picking one review from Robert Smith? is so difficult. I was tempted to choose his very funny piece on Coldheart, but thanks to a typo he implied that I was the author of Deep Blue... and even though he fixed it right away I'm still emotionally scarred. Also worth mentioning is the fascinating non-fan interview/review of Damaged Goods. But I've gone for his review of The Ancestor Cell, which is a lesson in how to dismantle a book fairly, amusingly, and without ever descending to a the level of a flaming.

Terrence Keenan's review of BBC v Virgin: After Terrence was so nice about me in his own "best of" list, I would have felt bad if I let him out. Just as well he's one of this site's best contributors, then. This recent piece is followed by an equally sharp piece on the book companions. Terrence usually swims against the tide - see his views on The Curse of Fenric and Human Nature - but he never fails to make me think and reassess my opinions, and what's more he says more in four hundred words than I can say in a thousand. Somehow, this combative piece actually benefits from being a response to a newsgroup argument I wasn't party to; Terrence's argument that BBC Books are better than the Virgin line is very convincing, exposing the "weren't Virgin great" views as cosy nostalgia and highlighting the undervalued experimentation in the BBC line.

So that's the ten. But allow me a final word. I almost didn't post this because of the reviewers I had to leave out; Alan Thomas, Robert Thomas, Jamas Enright, Michael Hickerson, Daniel Callahan, and countless others. Richard Radcliffe, Steve Scott, Jason A. Miller, John Seavey and many more... I reckon it goes to show how bloody brilliant this site is, and dammit, I'm glad to be here with you guys...


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