These are my personal favorites, the ones that always put a smile on my face.
10. Professor Horner (The Daemons)
Why: I just enjoy his attitude. The way he completely controls the BBC 3 announcer and producer is fun.
09. Tanha (Snakedance)
Why: Equal parts bored socialite and over-involved Mum. Her relationship with Lon is unique in the long history of Who.
08. Dr. Todd (Kinda)
Why: It's a well written part. Todd has wonderful interaction with the fifth Doctor. And I think Nerys Hughes is cute.
07. Amelia Ducat (The Seeds of Doom)
Why: A deft, wonderful combination of daffy old bat and shrewd businesswoman. I love how she manages to drive a hard bargain with Harrison Chase and turn around and mess with Scorby with a couple of words on aging.
06. Henry Gordon Jago and George Litefoot (The Talons
of Weng Chiang)
Why: Jago's alliteration, both on stage and off. Litefoot's interaction with Leela. That they can hold the screen on their own, without Big Tommy B.
05. Garron & Unstoffe (The Ribos Operation)
Why: The Sydney Harbor story alone for Garron, and with Unstoffe, those beautiful moments with Binro. And they work well with each other.
04. Duggan (City of Death)
Why: Yes, he's a bit dense, he's a cliche, but he so much fun to watch. And C'mon, he helps save the day with a right cross.
03. Binro the Heretic (The Ribos Operation)
Why: Robert Holmes shows his skills in creating a character whose sole mission is to help define a planet for the audience, and to also make an argument for enlightenment and reason.
02. Olive Hawthorne (The Daemons)
Why: Dear Miss Olive is the main reason I can get through The Daemons. Equal parts witch and busybody. She means well and stands up for what she believes in. Plus she has a thing for Benton, and she makes the wizard scene in ep4 brilliant.
01. Professor Amelia Rumford (The Stones of Blood)
Why: She gets a lot of great lines. She's this tiny old lady who is not afraid to jump in and help out. Beatrix Lehmann, Beatrix Lehmann, Beatrix Lehmann.
The Craig Hinton Fanwank Hall of Shame by Terrence Keenan 3/2/04
Ahh, obligatory continuity refernces. It's something that will cause that fanboy within to get all warm and tingly inside, but causes the reader looking for original ideas to foam at the mouth and hunt down the author of the book and beat him/her/it with blunt instruments.
Technically, any past continuity reference can be labelled fanwank, but for purposes of this inaguration ceremony, we're looking for sequel whoring, padding for purposes of word count, playing the fanboy What-If? Game, and/or absolute pointlessness of reference.
Submitted for your perusal, with authors conveniently locked in stocks for you to throw eggs and tomatoes at, The Craig Hinton Fanwank Hall of Shame is embarrassed to present to you the debut class:
Placebo Effect (Gary Russell): If it were just about the Fomasi or the Wirrn, we'd be more forgivable. But to combine them, and also include two comic book characters getting married as the catalyst for the story is deserving for inclusion.
Lucifer Rising (Jim Mortimore & Andy Lane): It is a debut novel, and both authors have gone on to much better things, but there are far too many references that grate on the nerves; the use of Krau and Trau, zeiton 7, Trisilicate, hymetusite, namechecks of one off alien races and linking the Adjudicators with the Grand Order of Oberon.
Legacy of the Daleks (John Peel): It's set in a post-Dalek Invasion of Earth England, and has Susan Foreman and the Big Roger Delgado version of the Master, which are used all right. But... that epilogue... AAAUUUGGGHHHH!!!!
No Future (Paul Cornell): The Short List includes The Meddling Monk; a Chronovore being summoned by the blood of a Minyan, Eternal, Mandrel, Silurian and Dalek; an explanation of the Brigadier's memory loss; and the Vardans. But the biggest offender is having the Brigadier state again "Chap with Wings, five rounds rapid," and try to make it both a joke and a big moment (and even the sole excuse for placing the story in the 70's). For this, Inductee Cornell will be locked in a room with only Time and the Rani to watch.
Divided Loyalties (Gary Russell): Well... if you were to take out the various refernces, you might have a ten pages long book. It reaches a ridiculous point where the climax of the novel is interrupted for continuity asides. For having two books inducted, the committee has included a special dishonor of giving the Big Fish a foot up the ass.
The Quantum Archangel (Craig Hinton): Even though Gary Russell has two offerings in the first round of inductees, the fact that Craig Hinton both coined the term fanwank and went out of his way to write the ultimate fanwank extravaganza allows him the ultimate dishonor of having the Hall of Shame named for him.
The Eight Doctors (Terrance Dicks): Uncle Terrance goes Sequel Whoring, a subcategory of fanwank where he brings back the same old characters from TV serials for "new" stories. Sometimes he succeeds in creating something fun, but then there's this booze-fired nightmare of a novel. It saddens me to induct him, but he meets the criteria.
The Face of the Enemy (David McIntee): This novel qualifies under the other subcategory of fanwank, the what-if game? As in What if the Doctor and Jo were off in the TARDIS and UNIT needed help? Turn to the Master of course. Toss in substantial roles for Ian and Barbara, as well as bringing in characters from another book line, and congratulations, you're in.
Notes: The Shadows of Avalon missed the cut because although there are numerous refernces to a previous book line just for sheer spite, they are limited to early sections of the book. Millenial Rites, GodEngine and The Crystal Buchephalus missed the cut because the nomination committee threatened to committ mass sepiku if forced to read them, after receiving ECT treatments in order to finish The Quantum Archangel.
The induction committee is always looking for new nominees, so feel free to present your own.
Bottom Forty Stories by Joe Ford
It seems quite defeatist to write your forty least favourite stories down when you claim to love the series they are inspired from. But after reading Terrance Keenan's highly informative and quite hysterical list (I love his blunt, no nonsense dealings with his particular turkeys) I was inspired and after a chat with my old pal Rob we decided we would both write one.
So here goes, be prepared for the longest rant you've ever heard...
40) Unnatural History
It pains me to say that an Orman/Blum piece should promise so much and yet deliver so little but their partnership had started to decline at this point (the professional one that is! Not their marriage!). Where Vampire Science dealt with moral dilemmas and Seeing I dealt with psychological torture, both quite adeptly, this attempt to write an SF epic fails miserably because the couple are more suited to more intimately scaled stories. Lawrence Miles has begun to infect the book range here and his presence is felt everywhere in this story and does not mix well with the authors' own obsessions with magic and mystery. The result is a confused, nightmarishly plotted story that lacks drama or humour and whose characters fail to engage. The first chapter impresses but it's all downhill from there.
Worst moment: The disturbing physical torture of all the characters.
39) Minuet in Hell
This story is just so long! How Dave Owen at DWM gave this a positive review is beyond me, it is the most clichĂ©d and confused story Big Finish have ever released. It insults the Americans, forcing British actors into hackneyed roles and forces them to put on horrible US accents. New Doctor Paul McGann is astonishingly pushed to the sidelines for an age and bland characters attempt to fill the gap he leaves. The whole issue of 'Who is the Doctor' is dealt with in such a vague and unsatisfying manner you have to wonder why they bothered. Even the music is rubbish.
Worst moment: Charley forced into a kinky sex outfit confronting a hip speaking demon, ahem, yes it gets that bad.
38) The Horns of Nimon
Please, please don't try to convince me this a decent story! Yes there are some influences in abundance that lead to much worthier tales and the science involved is a lot of fun but its such a shoddy, cheap, bland looking story, crammed with diabolical performances and one of the worst Dudley Simpson scores. The direction is terribly boring and the sets reused endlessly showing up the severe lack of money. And Graeme Crowden is so bad as Soldeed I am glad I wasn't old enough to watch this on its original transmission. I would never have watched Doctor Who again.
Worst moment: Soldeed walking the corridors screaming out "Lord Ni-mon!" as though he were calling for his cat!
37) Sword of Orion
Hmm, a story full of mercenaries that we are supposed to feel sorry for when they are captured by the Cybermen and converted. Unfortunately they are all thoroughly despicable and nasty and rather than fearing for their lives you are encouraging the Cybermen to kill them! It's a very slow story that tries to keep the Cybermen in the shadows but that would only work on television, on audio we have no idea where they are and instead have scenes of endless talking and waiting. Add to this no real chemistry yet between India Fisher and Paul McGann and you have a very dull experience indeed.
Worst moment: Cockney nasty Grash and his constant 'hard man' talk. He seems to say, "Shut it!" in every other sentence.
36) Psi-ence Fiction
Chris Boucher should stick to script writing because that is clearly what he is doing here; this dialogue heavy story lacks even basic prose. He fills the book full of stupid kids doing stupid things and expects us to care when they end up being killed. The villain of the piece is so obvious and his constant use of the Doctor/Leela relationship has begun to tire, I would love to see him turn his hand to another line up and see how he fares. The title is just about the only clever thing about this book, a shallow, scare-free nightmare.
Worst moment: I hate the lot. Sorry.
35) No Future
Argh! Get Cornell a girlfriend immediately... ¦he has clearly been affected by some terrible relationship tragedy before he wrote this novel because it sinks under emotional torment and relationship angst. The book is filled with hate and anger, the sort a teenager feels when going through those rebellious few years where they have something horrible to say about everything! It is all epitomised in the character of Ace, so far removed from the semi-likable persona she was on telly it is another example of the impossibly awful 'evolution' the New Adventures attempted with the regulars. Cornell even gets around to corrupting the Meddling Monk and dragging him into his whirlwind of despair, once a lovable rogue, now a nasty bastard.
Worst moment: Ace actually considering betraying the Doctor to the Monk. And his hysterical laughter as he realises he has succeeded.
34) The Mutants
So tacky and economical it insults the eyes. It features probably the worst ever Doctor Who bad guy in the form of Paul Whitsun-Jones' Marshal, a man with so little charisma and so much tummy he fills the screen with his endless schemes and prattling. Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning sleepwalk through the lazy plot and it all climaxes on Ky turning into an array of rainbow colours and floating around the Skybase, yes it really is that awful. No, not awful, just dreadfully average.
Worst moment: The entire first two episodes, was the director even there?
33) The Awakening
This is a story that looks fabulous; it may have the best production of the year but by God the script is lousy. It has no structure, no surprises, no menace... it is just a string of underwhelming set pieces that go nowhere. The ending is so anti-climatic you have to wonder why everyone was making such a fuss. It is a four parter crammed into two so there is no time for exploration of its characters and rushed explanations for the silly plot. Add to this the horrible Tegan and Turlough contributing sod all and you have a story that has aged terribly.
Worst moment: Tegan's endless whinings, I know this has become a Joe Ford cliche but its true! She is always on the bleeding moan! At it reaches its nadir in this story.
32) Grimm Reality
Shock! Gasp! Joe has put an EDA under Justin Richards' editorship in his worst forty! Well don't worry folks, it won't be the last to appear on this list! There is such a list of problems with this book, the story is pitched for adults despite its childish, fairytale theme, the science-fiction plot intrudes horribly and is duller than a plumbing lecture, the story is fractured with no momentum to the plot and there is a distinct lack of likable characters. Even Anji whinges, Tegan style throughout and Fitz is once again tortured in an unfair fashion. There are some glimmers of good humour and imagination but it lacks that certain sparkle that is required to make this sort of story work.
Worst moment: Fitz and wolfskin. What the hell was that all about?
I know, let's bring back Victoria and make her a technological genius, a brainwashed savant and as prickly as a thorn bush! Lets shove in the Brigadier and have him experience some unexplained dream sequences, force him into his uniform again (despite the ill fitting) and re-unite him Sarah Jane in a pointless cameo. Let's bring back an old Who director and get him to shoot cuddly Yeti in broad daylight and drain away all their menace. Finally let us have Marc Platt write the script, a complicated and dense affair that is so far removed from the good old adventuring of old only he knows what the hell is going on.
Worst moment: The Brigadier's selfish, poorly acted daughter.
30) Colony in Space
Ouch, this is a real eyesore! It's all bland greys and browns from the sets to the costumes and the locations. Hulke pummels his message into us repeatedly, so much so I was ready to take on every officious, political Nazi group (starting with the Conservative party) when it was over. There are some really weird looking aliens around to suggest this is more than just cowboys and Indians but really, who are you trying to fool? And when things look like they can't get any worse Gail from Coronation Street turns up!
Worst moment: Shock! Gasp! It's the Master! Good we can turn it off now, who cares now the best 'shock' is over and done with.
29) Arc of Infinity
The second Doctor is put on trial by his people and he fights their travesty of a courtcase with every fibre of his being. The sixth Doctor is put on trial by his people and he screams and shouts and makes such a nuisance of himself. The fifth Doctor is put on trial by his people and accepts the whole thing with calm complacency. Well I know who I'd rather watch.
Worst moment: An alien chicken! Finally Arnold J Rimmer's assumption that a species must resemble this popular brand of frozen poultry has come true! Step forward the Ergon!
28) Land of the Dead
I cannot remember one second of this story except that I was cleaning out my oven when I listened to it and found the caked on gravy more interesting.
How can so many people be so wrong? Maybe it's me; maybe I just don't get Gareth Roberts style of Doctor Who. This is not only a poor Doctor Who story but a poor piece of writing too. The prose is bland and lifeless, the plot takes yonks to get going, the regulars are practically ignored and lacked even a basic personality. The Zamps themselves are a dull idea, ooh cute slug like creatures that turn into homicidal monsters, maybe passable as a subplot but eye-achingly monotonous when stretched to a novel length. Gareth Roberts pitched a few rare gems but a great writer he ain't.
Worst moment: The first fifty pages, I have never struggled so much to find something nice to say (and failed).
26) Loving the Alien
One of the few books me and Finn Clark agreed on this year, a jumbled, confusing mess that frustrates as the writers add more and more plot to an already full book. Combine the cast of Caves of Androzani, Robots of Death, The Awakening and The Daleks' Masterplan and you would still have fewer characters to concentrate on than in this novel, which wouldn't be so bad if they weren't all angst heavy New Adventures throwbacks. Give the Doctor and Ace thing a rest; this horse has taken its last satisfactory ride! The two writers fail to bridge the gap between their very different prose styles and the result is a book that is extremely schizophrenic.
Worst moment: The seventh Doctor agonising over the fate of Ace, haven't I read this like a million times before?
25) The Mutant Phase
"The Mutant Phase!" "The Mutant Phase!" "The Mutant Phase!"... and people said the dialogue in Destiny of the Daleks was atrocious.
Worst moment: Already covered that.
24) The Sea Devils
I never realised I found so much Pertwee a drag, an era I always thought I admired. But this is another example of lazy storytelling, borrowing its plot wholesale from The Silurians without adding anything extra to make this rehash worth our time. Worse, it lacks the earlier story's gritty realism, its powerful imagery and its intelligent characterisation. Plus it has some of the ugliest location work ever.
Worst moment: That dreadfully long swordfight between the Doctor and the Master that exists just for Pertwee and Delgado to do some showing off. Plus it reminds me of a similar stand off between Davison and Ainley that angers me even more.
The fifth Doctor is a gun toting warmonger? Peri is a military tactician? What is Terrance Dicks on? What was he thinking when he decided to write this trashy pulp, a Doctor Who story that talks about nasty stuff (rape) far too often. His prose can be a joy when fixed to a firm plot but this flabby sequel/prequel (whatever) jammed with continuity just exposes his childish, underwhelming writing voice. What freaks me out is how Justin Richards commissioned this in the first place; surely Dicks' name isn't enough to secure him a place in the schedules despite the crap he is writing?
Worst moment: Read the book. Pick a page.
A very wise man once said that Doctor Who could survive anything but being boring. And what is more boring than a story that plays it safe throughout, that refuses to accept it is anything but a Doctor Who story and plays only within the parameters that the 'series' laid down. On screen this would be an incredibly traditional tale of two warring factions on a faceless planet with a generic Doctor and two offendingly bland companions. A stylish director might salvage it. As a novel written in a basic, clichĂ©d prose style it is unbearable. Not bad, just terribly, terribly boring.
Worst moment: Before you've even started the book you have to get past the horrid cover.
Oh yuck, a story that is so gaudy and pantomime-esque I can't bear to re-watch it anymore. I used to find this charmingly traditional but it really doesn't hold up to scrutiny in any respect, the acting is mannered and stilted, the characterisation childish, the plot resembles swiss cheese and the special FX hardly living up to their name. All three-episode endings suck (not a good sign) and the introduction of "Wicked! Brill! Mega Naff!" Ace a total embarrassment for a series that was starting to get its act together. I hate it. Sorry Rob.
Worst moment: Anything in the lower levels... the sets are embarrassingly bad.
19) The Slow Empire
After lauding Dave Stone as a literary genius I have gone back and re-read his work and found myself lost awash a string of dense but confusing books, scraps of terrific writing amongst all the extraneous rubbish he fills them with. This book is his least likable; the plot services about fifty pages but is stretched to five times that length and as if realising, Stone sticks in an abhorrent chapter inside a Matrix-style universe that only helps to confuse matters further. It is frustrating because snippets are hysterical (usually revolving around Anji and her severe lack of humour!) but the tone is so dry and lifeless no matter how many weird characters and aliens he tries to add it still winds up annoyingly lacking.
Worst moment: Inside the Machine... yawn!
One of the worst of Big Finish's underwhelming 2003 products. Davison, who had been improving is forced to head this predictable, comatose story. There are some big names involved with the story but they all seem mis-cast and fresh writer Austin Atkinson seems to have lots of good ideas but they are all abused horribly. Cackling witches, a bored Doctor, a Leela clone, a space War... it's not just absurd its boring, David Darlington's 80's inspired score hammering the final nail in the coffin.
Worst moment: Davison, who sleepwalks through the story as bored as we are.
17) Four to Doomsday
Go read my read my review; it is by far the most scathing thing I have ever written.
Worst moment: Tegan, Tegan, bloody Tegan! Lost at sea, she shrieks her way through the story. This may be a realistic portrayal of a woman on the point of a nervous collapse thanks to the terrors she is being put through but it is still atrociously acted television.
Which is actually a very well written book but the creators of Doctor Who could be up for a huge sum of money in the maltreatment case! It just isn't the type of Who that I want to read, concerned with drugs and violence and nasty characters. Despite some nice writing the story is obsessed in making Doctor Who as a part of the 'real' world as possible and for a show about a time travelling police box whose occupant has thirteen lives and two hearts, I would have thought it an impossibility. But somehow Cartmel manages it, the Doctor practically MIA, Ace spending the story in the mind of an animal (huh?) and Benny infiltrating a drugs ring. It is quite long and doesn't have the plot to support it and all the scenes of animal experiments push the New Adventures into vomit inducing territory.
Worst moment: The astonishingly awful scene where a character is implanted into the mind of a dog and gets the sudden urge to shag another dog! Possibly the only time in Doctor Who where we are privy to bestiality! And hopefully the last.
15) The Quantum Archangel
What are the worst scenes in Doctor Who ever? How about Ruth and Stu in The Time Monster jumping up and down with glee screaming, "We've done it! We've done it!"? What about the Master, a criminal genius having his science corrected in the same story? Or the very idea of TOMTIT? Well Craig Hinton the genius figured we didn't get enough of The Time Monster the first time around and decided to write a sequel. Go figure.
Worst moment: The Doctor and the Master fucking about with their TARDIS in the middle chapters, one incredibly long science lecture that takes Who prose to a new low.
Ahh, season twenty, let me count the ways I hate thee... well three actually and this, the middle adventure in the trilogy of terror isn't even the worst but it's still pretty grim. The funniest thing I can say about Terminus is when one of my best friends tried to make me watch the story and was making encouraging comments during the show's all time worst moments. It is perhaps the only time I have ever enjoyed the story, a rank, wrist slicingly bad experience but on that occasion I found myself laughing until my sides split. For a more thorough dig go read my review of the story.
Worst moment: When one of Matt's housemates walked in said watching and proceeded to sing the Doctor Who theme tune to embarrass us. Faced with Terminus as my only defence, I was dreadfully embarrassed myself!
13) The Monster of Peladon
Does anybody like The Monster of Peladon? Or prefer it to Curse? I would love to read a review of somebody singing its praises, just for a giggle but the truth of the matter is that this is even more of a heinous rip off than The Sea Devils was with even less to support its six, long, dreary episodes. Pertwee doesn't give a shit anymore, Sladen tries her best but the production lacks money and imagination. She screams at the Ice Warriors but they look crap, all that 'stormy night' atmosphere whipped up by Curse is missing. The supporting actors fail to convince and the story climaxes in exactly the same way as the previous story on this dull planet.
Worst moment: A top moment of comedy as Terry Walsh exposes his face as the stunt double Doctor, now we can add another man name to the list of actors who has played him!
12) The Taint
Michael Collier gets Doctor Who, I'm certain of it. There are a number of scary ideas in this book, he creates a wonderful companion in the shape of Fitz, he manages to give companion Sam something fun to do and the conclusion of the story is achingly poignant. Oh yes, he has written a great story here. But nothing can excuse that Collier is a terrible, terrible writer, his prose is so turgid and uninvolving you won't give a damn about what is happening even if it is quite interesting. I found this a yawn a minute piece, plod, plod, plod, no drama, no comedy, just endless, unrelenting monotony. Rarely has a book promised terrifying delights (that terrifying cover!) and fail to live up to it.
Worst moment: There really isn't a good moment in this book, well there are but you'll never know about it.
11) The Dark Flame
Another 2003 loser from the Big Finish chaps and not the last! Trevor Baxendale is such an inconsistent writer and when he this bad the experience is painful. It is the worst performance from a Doctor I have ever heard, McCoy clearly hasn't read this story through properly and spits and shouts and goofs his way through the story. The villain is painfully obvious and painfully embarrassing, Sophie Aldred joins McCoy in her grotesquely prolonged Doctor Who life and she too fails to convince. The story is predictable and the direction so bad I almost wish it was directed by Gary Russell, a fate worse than death!
Worst moment: That we have to dredge through this horror story to reach The Draconian Rage, a far superior story for Benny, Baxendale and the Dark Flame!
10) Heart of TARDIS
I can't think of a book I have had a harder time reading. Dave Stone at his all time worst, unfocussed and the writing lacking any kind of energy. Romana is treated in a terrible fashion, no matter what Rob Matthews says Romana was never this callous or bitchy. Dave spends ages on every scene and I still have intense difficulty picturing what is being told and it leaves the dual Doctor plot in the gutter, neither Doctor getting to do anything worthwhile until two thirds into the book! It made me laugh twice but they were the only positive reactions to this dense nonsense. Maybe I'm not clever enough to get 'it'.
Worst moment: Anything with back stabbing Romana. Never have I hate a companion so much outside of Tegan.
9) The Dalek Invasion of Earth
One of the greatest flops in the history of the show, it has possibly the greatest idea for a story but is sabotaged in every way by director Richard Martin who single handedly tears down season two from greatness. Just look at the Robomen, constipated zombies who talk in a hysterical monotone and make the silly, gay voiced Daleks emotional in comparison whilst they clank and clunk into the unconvincing sets. Sickeningly bad acting, a plodding script and no tension of any kind... this story is a nightmare of nostalgic embarrassment.
Worst moment: The wicked-cool paper plate on a string posing as a Dalek spaceship.
8) The Kings Demons
Ahem. The Master decides to wreck the Magna Carta, fair enough but to do so he gets dressed up in a fake orange beard, puts on a fake French accent and uses a fake android/King. Why? Why? Why? Tegan and Turlough are about, doing nothing. Peter Davison blends into the bland scenery with ease. Even at two episodes this manages to outstay its welcome (by about an episode and three quarters!), the script has no time to make any impact and fails to tell us anything interesting about its chosen period of history. It is about as bland as Doctor Who telly ever comes.
Worst moment: The dreadfully long sword fight that exists just to allow Ainley and Davison to do some showing off. Plus it reminds me of a similar standoff between Pertwee and Delgado that angers me more!
7) The Timewyrm series
Woah, how could any series of books get off to a worse start than this? Genesys is a hackneyed mess with little to merit it, just a ton of despicably bad characters, no decent plot twists and a boring depiction of the Doctor and Ace. Exodus, a recent re-read has proven to be shallow and a bit of an insult to anyone who escaped the Second World War. Apocalypse shows some promise in places but is hampered by an embarrassing love plot and a crap ending. And Revelation, that much-lauded 'masterpiece' is probably my least favourite New Adventure ever, a spiteful piece that takes the show into territory it never should have.
Worst moment: Reading it.
6) He Jests at Scars
Gary Russell you nutcase... what it this? A story so bad Dave Owen of DWM compares it to pornography! Never before will you have read something so full of loathing until you take a peek at my review of this story, almost the worst thing Big Finish released in 2003.
Worst moment: The ending that suggests it may never have happened. The fact that this is still in doubt still keeps me awake, sweating and panting.
5) Silver Nemesis
Its padded beyond belief, is directed without thought and features a Doctor and his companion at their all time blandest. Plus the Cybermen are crap crap CRAP. So bad I spent a week in psychiatric incarceration after watching. I was gunning for Kevin Clarke, Chris Clough and JNT in a psychotic, homicidal manner.
Worst moment: We are at this point in the list where worst moment constitutes of the whole story.
4) Revenge of the Cybermen
Another reason why the Cybermen are worse monster than the Zarbi. An ill-conceived, atrociously written story that I cannot do justice in this space. Again, go read my review for of murderous dislike.
Worst moment: Do I have to pick one... oh okay. Sarah holding up the Cybermat who is attacking her! The plastic bodies! The spongey Cybermen! "I'll tell you what it isn't, it isn't 'uninhabited'!"
Truthfully the only Doctor Who book I never finished so maybe there is something so audacious in those last fifty pages that twists this story into one of the most thoughtful and engaging Who works. But seriously... given the first 200 pages of non-incidents, boring characters, tedious locations and angst, angst ANGST... I doubt it.
Worst moment: The Doctor walks through the sand, head down in contemplative thought. And again. And again. And again. Again. Again. Againâ^Ŕ¦
An insult to all the Doctor Who fans who waited 18 months in eager anticipation myself included. Big Finish have now released their longest ever story and I pray to God they don't ever do it again. Gary Russell tore into The Five Doctors suggesting this was a far more sophisticated anniversary story, one in which he gathers together over twenty Doctor Who actors and forces them into underwritten roles, screws up with continuity in horrible ways, has fucking awful concepts (the BAD TARDIS... grrr) and takes forever to get anywhere. The first disc is aural tripe, so unrecognisably awful from proper Doctor Who it took me three weeks to listen to the second disc! Over three hours of deconstructing all the good work that has been done to Doctor Who in 40 years.
Worst moment: The TARDIS in a moment of unbearable cruelty throws out all of the Doctors collected gubbins. My least favourite scene in Doctor Who to this day.
The All time worst ever Doctor Who story is... One) The Eight Doctors
And we thought the Timewyrm series was a bad way to open the New Adventures, the BBC eighth Doctor adventures get off to an all time low with their first ever story. Frankly everything that came after this was to be cherish because we all knew things could never, ever be this bad ever again. Terrance Dicks writes a book which is such an insult to newcomers and those fans that leapt on after Virgin, a story so childish, shallow, insulting even to a child! The story itself is a walk through Doctor Who continuity, all of it bad and each of the Doctors as faceless as the new 8th Doctor, saved from being the worst character in this book thanks to universally despised companion SAM JONES. What a woman, she has the worst entrance of any companion and is so lacking in character it would be more involving if the Doctor took a carrot with a moustache and top hat with him! The third Doctor tries to kill himself; the sixth Doctor makes the trial even more complicated than it already was... it is so painful to wade through this unintelligible rubbish. It is the nadir of all stories to feature Gallifrey, a planet now so worthless the books later erase it from existence. A book that confirms the general public's suspicions about Doctor Who, that it is embarrassing, literary muck. The 8th Doctor books have been making up for this crime ever since, they have more than made up for it by now but it took a long, long time to forgive them for commissioning this.
Classifying Critics, the different varieties of Who reviewers by Terrence Keenan
Different from the fan factions, Who reviewer subgroups have their own distinct variations that are easily understood through careful research and understanding (without the hassle of grooming). As with fan divisions, reviewers can fall into multiple categories, yet there will be one that can be considered their dominant type.
For your intellectual stimulation, here the critic divisions, as follows:
The Traditionalist: They like proper, serious, Doctor Who. They see Who as a serious science fiction TV series. The traditionalist is not interested in any subtext beyond what is obvious on a first or second viewing and are more willing to dislike any serial that strays from formula, or shows a sense of humor. They tend to be more interested in Missing Adventure/Past Doctor Adventures when it comes to books, and like to see Who as one giant, consistent continuity.
The Radicals: These critics love new ideas, new storytelling styles and anything that moves Who away from its roots and into a new direction. Radicals are the critics who claim Who was never science fiction, but a magic realist, post modern family show that appeals to college students looking for metatextaul shenanigans. Radical interpretations and continuity manglings get their toes tingling with pleasure. They would rather watch a story with new ideas that falls on its face than something old and safe.
The Jihadists: They tend to view Who through a very narrow viewpoint which they claim is right and will vociferously attack aspects of the show that fail to meet their view, or anyone who questions their way of seeing things. Tend to cause flamewars on internet groups without ever realizing it.
The Virgins: A specific book reviewer type who champions any book that came out under the Virgin imprint as brilliant and anything under the BBC imprint as pitiful excuses to cash in on the fans. To mention that the Virgin imprint only started printing New Who Novels after running out of serials to novelize will cause them to morph into Jihadists. The same will happen if you fail to acknowledge Bernice Summerfield as Best Companion Ever.
The Button Pushers: Solely exist to challenge fan conventions and majority opinions the same way a kid will stir up different types of ants. They see it as their mission to trash beloved stories and champion hated ones just to cause reactions. They consider their commentary a success when they can have a majority of fans foaming at the mouth.
The (Pseudo)Intellectuals: Critics of this stripe love digging for deeper themes in books, audios and serials. They will bring in movie/literary critique techniques into Who and are more likeley to compare a serial with their favorite Kubrick Movie than with another serial. Their reviews are long, meaty and may even have footnotes.
The Anoraks: They love everything, or will try to love everything. Even in the stories they claim to despise, they will try to find the meritous aspects and focus on that area.
The Humorists: Everything is for a laugh. The big mission is to crack as many jokes in the course of the review, at the expense of everything, even themselves. This would even include taking on any of the other reviewer personalities, but letting the reader in on the joke. The Humorist would write a pseudointellectual list of critic types, for example and hope that the Jihadists would lighten up and have a laugh, for once.
My favourite reviews on the Ratings Guide by Joe Ford 19/2/04
I know, I know what a plagiarising git! But everybody seems to have done a list in this vein and I wanted to join the pack, chiefly to show those contributors to the Guide that they are appreciated and that their work doesn't go unnoticed. There are loads of reviewers whose stuff I love that did not make it on this list (Jamas Enright, Tim Roll Pickering, Robert Thomas, Brett Walther... and many, many more) which is a shame, if I could make this my top ten or twenty I could include everyone but as such...
Robert Smith? reviews City of the Dead/Camera Obscura ("This is a gorgeous book"/"A book that should not just be read, it should be savoured.")
I could listen to Robert go on about how good Lloyd Rose is all day! He accepts that neither of these books are utterly perfect but that they are nearer so than much of the rest of the Who output. He quite wonderfully points out what I feel is the most important thing about a book, the thing that can make or break it, the prose. The plot can be on shaky ground (Robert did not understand the end of City and thought that Camera Obscura was based around a piece of scientific McGuffin) but it is how the story is told that is important. These two reviews continue his overall (but not complete) satisfaction with the later EDAs and feature some complimentary words on the Doctor, Fitz and Anji. However I believe his comment on Geoffrey Beevers and Terrance Dicks may have scarred me for life.
Brett Johnson reviews Revelation of the Daleks (or "A sickening, perverse, bastardising culmination of everything the show did wrong in its Twenty Second year").
Let me count the reasons I love this piece...
Andrew McCaffrey reviews Death and Diplomacy ("A novel should stand or fall on its own merits, so if you're going to blind us with your brilliance, make sure you write a better book than Death and Diplomacy.")
A review which provoked such a spontaneous outburst of laughter from me, I had to write to him immediately and let him know how much I loved it! It is access to the thoughts of a man who is tired of Dave Stone's literary muck. He single handedly manages to prove why I (and many others) was dissatisfied with the New Adventures with this short collection of words. I have read negative Andrew McCaffrey reviews before but never one with such passion and good humour. Brilliantly he comments that the Roz/Chris plot puts the "bog" in "bog standard".
Rob Matthews lists his Top Forty Turkeys
I was eagerly anticipating this one ever since Rob told me it was on the way; his list of the all time sewage scraping muck Doctor Who has dredged up. It is a screamingly funny (and mostly accurate) list with too many highlights to mention. He despises a few that I love (Anachrophobia, Vengeance on Varos) and some that I agree with whole-heartedly (Unbound: Deadline). There's more Davison in there than you can shake a stick at (Warriors, Kinda, Four to Doomsday, Kings Demons, The Visitation, Arc of Infinity) and surprising amount of Colin Baker too (Twin Dilemma, Mindwarp, Timelash, Vengeance). Please, please, please take a look at his take on Silver Nemesis and The Invasion of Time... as homicidally funny as The Guide comes!
Finn Clark reviews Warmonger ("This is not just the usual dumb, shallow Terrance, it's actively bad.")
The beginning in a long line of Finn Clark BBC book reviews with a less than favourable tone, here I agree with Finn whole-heartedly. The main reason I have never thought to review this stinker myself is because it is all there, perfectly stated in Finn's review. Gratuitous, distracting continuity, out of character regulars, limp prose, inappropriate tone (rape, rape, rape), a horribly mishandled premise... Finn mentions it all with his usual aplomb. Then brilliantly, comically, Finn includes a list of page references where he boggled in disbelief at the sheer dumbness of the writing, a regular fixture of his reviews now and especially funny here.
Steve Scott reviews the return of You know Who ("Above all else - whatever you do, don't give a flying f**k what the fans think.")
A short, simple piece that says so much that is perfectly true. This is a very different sort of review, intriguingly structured and written in a snappy you-are-there style, this is wonderfully readable stuff. He manages to capture all the fears and delights in the possibility of a new series. When reading I was eager to see the new series straight away and I never wanted to see it at all. His ultimate message (see quote above) is so perfect, so true; there need be no more words on the subject.
Rob Matthews reviews Destiny of the Daleks ("Resurection of the Daleks gets almost unanimously panned as a mess, yet fans give this nonsensical piece of shit a comparatively easy ride!")
May I point out that Rob does indeed love Doctor Who a lot and the fact that I have chosen two of his most negative reviews in no way reflects his opinion of the series, it is just when he gets a bit grumpy with the series I always find myself gripped at how savage he can be. This review is a fine (near perfect) example of why you should please Rob with the new series because if he is unhappy you will know about it! He explains his reasons for hating the story with his usual intelligent vigour, Davros' ludicrous comeback, how crap the Daleks are (he rather wonderfully suggests that they could break the stalemate by getting some more decent appendages so they can pull the batteries off the Movellans), Romana's clumsy regeneration (second only to McCoy's initial appearance apparently!) It is a shocking, clever and well thought out argument... like all Rob's reviews it has a lot of heart.
Terrance Keenan reviews Curse of Fenric ("Curse has been praised to high heavens but to quote Flavor Flav, "Don't believe the hype!")
This is (as recently pointed out in his bottom forty stories) Terrance's least favourite story of all time and shows how wonderfully he goes against the grain and tells it as he sees it despite the fact that Curse turns up on practically every fan's top ten list (including mine). He makes a rather good argument too, the poor acting, the similarities to The Daemons (which I thought was absurd until I read on), the car pile up of co-incidences in the climax, Tomek Bork's hammy turn as Fenric... I don't agree with all of these but one thing is perfectly clear, this story is not all it is cracked up to be, Terrance very eloquently proves that even undisputed classics (he hates this term) have their dissenters.
Matthew Harris reviews Season Twenty One ("An epic season. So this is an epic review.")
I love this review with every fibre of my being because I have never before known a man go to such lengths to prove how much he loves a slice of Doctor Who. It is a hysterical and intelligent piece that drags in a whole bunch of references, he uses quotes to good comic effect and presses the point of how much he adores Davison's portrayal (ahem) and thinks up some ingenious names for his and Colin's Doctors. He even manages to whip up Rob Matthews, Matt Irvin and myself in a whirlwind of laugh out loud insults that I rather enjoy. Clearly Matthew is insane (as is his love for this season) and for one incredibly long review he manages to entertain and involve the reader whilst cleverly slapping them around the face with a wet fish. Make of that what you will.
Mike Morris reviews Time Zero ("Time Zero is his (Justin Richards) best Doctor Who book to date. As a manifesto of his work, it is superb.")
This is a glowing review and probably my all time favourite on the site. He explains how each of the TARDIS crew is essential to the plot and what their strengths are (in particular discussing Fitz better than I have read for ages). He explains his feeling for Justin's previous work and how he feels about his craftsmanship (that it lacks heart). He isn't entirely happy with the book, fearing the book range is in danger of becoming a soap and the Doctor stating that he has never faced an adversary like the one in Time Zero (when clearly he has). But he sums it all up positively with: "Consistently enjoyable, genuinely touching and relentlessly brilliant escapism." It is so nice to see someone whose reviews I have admired so much writing something I can agree with whole heartedly.
Top Ten Non-TV Doctor Who productions by Phil Fenerty 27/2/04
Whilst Doctor Who started out purely as a TV series designed to entertain the whole family between Grandstand and Juke Box Jury, it very quickly broke out of the shackles of the Lime Grove studios and into books, film and magic lantern projector shows. Many fans (and, it seems, the BBC) regard the TV series as being "true" Doctor Who, which could be described as narrow-minded. Other media have re-interpreted and re-invigorated the series, even (at times) introducing New Ideas which have been integrated into the on-going programme.
Nowadays, Doctor Who seems to exist in every medium except television (something soon to be rectified by RTD), with new books, comic strips, webcasts and audio adventures cascading out to a hungry fandom every month.
The following Top Ten list is a highly personal celebration of the best Doctor Who which was not created for the television. All of it involves some sort of "story" creation (it would have been too easy to include one of the many board games or toys on the list), and could therefore qualify as being part of the whole mythos surrounding the Doctor.
10 Dalek Dialogue - Doctor Who Exhibition, Blackpool, circa 1976
The Blackpool exhibition followed a predictable path. A darkened corridor with monsters and costumes snaked around until it entered the TARDIS "console room", around which were gathered a further selection of enemies - including the Daleks! These were not mere inanimate casings, but moved up and down the display, "interrogating" visitors in the belief that the Doctor was present. As an impressionable youngster, it left me scared, and glad to be away from them. Even now, I can hear the disappointment in their mechanical voices chanting "This is not the Doctor! This is not the Doctor!"
9 Dalek Invasion of Earth 2150AD (film)
Once Milton Subotsky had learned how to direct the Daleks properly, he managed to create a gem of a film. The grim desolation of the Thames-side landing point for Tardis, the desperate battle at the foot of the saucer-ramp, the harrowing journey to the mine: all skilfully portrayed. Peter Cushing gives his best performance as Doctor Who (surely time for a PDA featuring him!), with Bernard Cribbins giving excellent support (the comedy of the Roboman sequence destroys the menace of the scene, however).
This is the first story demonstrating that history can be changed - Bernard Cribbins' constable foiling the jewel raid at the end of the film he was unable to halt at its start.
8 DWM Comic Strip - The Fifth Doctor era (The Tides of Time to 4-Dimensional Vistas)
The first comic strip "story arc" spanning virtually the whole period of Davison's tenure. Starting with a village cricket match, it becomes clear that the Doctor has settled on Earth for a prolonged stay. The run takes in a haunted starship, a demonic entity controlling the TARDIS, the Doctor on trial (again!) and a coral island, before revealing the purpose for the sojourn. The Doctor finally confronts The Meddling Monk and a troop of Ice Warriors planning to create a powerful weapon.
Along the way we meet Justin (a knight?), Shade (agent of the Matrix), Max (a UFO spotter) and Gus (domed American airman) who accompany the Doctor on his travels. The run is let down in the middle sections by poor artwork and a seeming lack of direction: but once the raison d'etre is revealed, hangs together as a magnificent whole. This should be re-released as a graphic novel for a whole new generation to enjoy.
7 The Doctor Who Annual (1966)
The first annual produced, and the only one to be written by a member of the production team, an uncredited David Whittaker. Monsters from the first two series (Voord, Zarbi and Sensorites) make guest appearances here, all in text-only mode (no comic strips !) with lovely illustrations (paintings?) to go with them. Relatively hard to get hold of, a little gem of a book. Also contains a Doctor Who "Space Race" game and articles on "Who is Doctor Who" and "The Equations of Doctor Who", both of which imply that he is a human from the far future. Point your browser over to Finn Clark's excellent review which does the Annual justice far, far better than possible in this listing.
6 DWM Comic Strip - "Regeneration" storyline
I hadn't been taking too much notice of the DWM comic strip after the Eighth Doctor arrived. One month, the editorial ended "You won't believe the last page of the comic strip" so I just had to go and read it! There he was, the Doctor heroic to the end, sacrificing himself to save the world. And turning into Nicholas Briggs.
Of course, it was all a trick (it was Shade all along), but it made me sit up and take notice. The McGann version stepped out of the shadows a couple of months later and it was all back on track. But for the sheer bravado of the whole scenario, it deserves it place in this list.
5 Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon (prologue)
A marvellous piece of invention, two humble Time Lord functionaries reviewing classified information and talking about the Doctor and the Master. In the days when few books existed, this was a necessary piece of scene-setting to develop the characters and their rivalry. The old Time Lord remembers being involved in the clear-up after The War Games (his TARDIS materialised as a machine-gun post: when asked what that is, he pauses before being unable to answer!). The discovery that the Master has stolen the data on the Doomsday Weapon leads nicely into the rest of the story.
4 Human Nature
Paul Cornell's Human Nature is not only his best work, but also one of the two best in the Virgin NA canon (The Also People being right up there with it). The Doctor becomes human (is this a factor in the Eighth Doctor being half-human?), hiding his Time-Lord-ness away in a construct. Living as a teacher, he finds his dreams plagued by the strange planet Gallifrey, his days finding romance. Bernice, struggling to fit into the era, must fight against the aliens determined to steal the Doctor's nature away from him. A wonderful piece of writing, joyful and evocative, whenever I think of the NA's, I think of this book and smile.
3 Father Time
The pinnacle of achievement in the EDA range. Once you can wade through the dense opening section of the book, it unfolds into an epic story told over a span of years (rather than the hours usually covered by a Doctor Who story). We watch the strange girl Miranda grow up, with the Doctor becoming (of all things) a management consultant.
Meanwhile, alien forces are gathering, determined to snatch Miranda from her father's clutches.
Never, in all the stories written to date, has the Doctor seemed more human. His love for Miranda shines through the prose. This and The Infinity Doctors stand head and shoulders above much of the BBC range. Father Time shows a newer side to the Doctor and is to be commended.
2 Doctor Who and The Crusaders (prologue)
David Whittaker in glorious inventive mode. I was disappointed to learn that this hadn't been from the TV script, the whole scene is marvellous. It introduces Martian Chess, where rival pieces can be married off and dowries paid (the Doctor is told off by Barbara when he assists Vicki), whilst Ian and the Doctor discussing historical figures and the responsibilities of time travel. One of the most mesmerising pieces of writing in the whole Doctor Who library.
1 The Chimes of Midnight
Probably the best audio in the entire Big Finish range, skilfully putting Sapphire and Steel, Agatha Christie and the best of BBC Radio Four's Afternoon Plays into a mixing bowl and coming up with a suspense-filled and chilling pudding.
Episode One sets up an intriguing temporal mystery, the tension cranks up as the servants die again and again, and then the mystery of Edward Grove is revealed...
The only problem with this story (which possibly hinders its broadcast to a wider audience) is the continuity links to the ongoing Charley Pollard storyline running through the "season". If this is the only gripe with it, then the story must be something special.
My choicest cuts from the Ratings Guide by Rob Matthews 3/3/04
Seems like the world and his wife have been submitting 'top reviews' lists to the Ratings Guide lately (and rather flatteringly some of my own witterings have been mentioned!). I've been considering doing the same thing for a while now, held back only by the fear of overlooking something brilliant and kicking myself, and by the fact that I already did this top ten a few years back.
Been a lot of bloody good reviews on the site since then, though, plus my own vistas have expanded a little (back when I wrote that list I implied that only televised Doctor Who was 'proper' - Jesus, if someone said that now I'd leap down their bloody throats!).
Anyhoo, this is a huge, huge site and nowt wrong with pointing newcomers in the direction of the coolest stuff here.
The rules: They're in alphabetical order by name of reviewer. It's a brainstorm rather than a top ten. Only one review per person, or else this would just become a retrospective of Mike Morris, Finn Clark and Joe Ford. Oh, and no mentioning pieces that previous lists of this sort have already cited.
Top Ten thoughtful things a non fan has said by Joe Ford 9/3/04
When I first met my boyfriend Simon four years ago he did not have a clue what Doctor Who was. He knew of its existence, that it consisted of 'a blue spaceship' but he dismissed the show as rubbish without ever having seen it. He much preferred Star Trek: Voyager which nearly made me re-think the relationship, after all, everyone knows DS9 is the superior Star Trek show, right?
Anyway we embarked on four plus years of scrapes and japes, Simon soon coming to realise just how fanatical I was with this little show and cornering him most evenings with his promises of one day watching the show. Initially sceptical he soon found that he could casually rip the show the pieces for laugh but I soon realised something strange was happening to him too. Suddenly he could name all the Doctors in the row and have a fair stab at the companions too, he had a favourite Doctor and monster and could do Sil's laugh to a tee. Things were changing...
So here is my list of the most interesting times I have ever had with a non-fan when it comes to Doctor Who. It's been a hell of a ride...
10) "Will you shut up I'm trying to watch this!" The Claws of Axos.
Simon adores the Pertwee era, a chance to really get to know the regulars, to enjoy stories set in recognisable places. It was during this story that I realised how aware (and embarrassed) I was of all of Doctor Who's flaws. I spent the first episode apologising for all the cock shaped spaceships and gammy CSO, Pertwee's conservative acting and Jo Grant's inability to scream... pretty soon I was remembering the story and was mentioning things that were to come, too nervous to wait for his reaction to them (the blue screen in the UNIT jeep action sequence). In a moment of clarity for me and impatience for Simon he told me to shut up and enjoy the STORY. He didn't care how the show looked; the script had suckered him in. How fickle and shortsighted we fans can be at times.
9) BIG ROW, TIME ZERO
The only time we have ever had a violent disagreement over anything Who related came after I first read this fabulous Justin Richards book. Simon being Simon asked me what it was about and had I enjoyed it. I did, so I enthusiastically mentioned its fascinating concepts and dealings with Schrodinger's Cat. Which lead to a discussion of pre-destination, are our lives designed or do we make them up as we go along, pretty much the Doctor and Sabbath's argument in the book. I was the Doctor (naturally) and Simon was Sabbath and we were suddenly shouting at each other, the debate heating up to insult-levels! My point being it is interesting that Doctor Who can provoke such rigorous debate, that a kid's show (hmm...) could reduce two adults (hmm...) to the limits of their intellect, making any excuse to see their point excuse (including saying the others mother was fat...). It reminded me of Doctor Who chat rooms in the worst of ways.
8) "Paul McGann doesn't count", last Friday in London.
Oh dear. Ohhhhh dear. In one of his attempts to perk me up after a minor disagreement after spending a fortune on Who merchandise (itself worthy of discussion, is there a desire of us fans to see new stuff on the shelf so we become editors and directors and pull in the old actors in a despearate bid to satisfy our own needs?) Simon quickly proceeds to tell me all the Doctor Who actors in a row to show how much he's learnt. He was doing so well too, unfortunately his love for Queer as Folk slips in and he adds this little beauty and my face instantly fell. It suddenly struck me that non fans do not see Paul McGann as a recognisable Doctor but as that guy from Whitnail and I. Here's me, mad fan, obsessing over the latest EDA, totally immersed in what Justin Richards has done with McGann's portrayal and me own lover does not even include him on the list of Doctors. Do you?
7) "You're prepared to travel two hours on the train just to get a book?", Sometime Never...
Hahahaha! Oh the joys of being a Doctor Who fan! You wait forever to reach an event novel (in this case Sometime Never...) and when one finally arrives you are desperate to read it, especially when gits on Outpost Gallifrey tease you with the fact that they have read it already! You wait past the release date and Amazon still hasn't delivered it. Unable to concentrate you finally pull your socks up and decide to travel to London and buy it, even if it does mean getting a fifteen-pound train ticket! I decided to drag Simon along with me and after much coaxing he managed to figure out why I was so desperate to go on a shopping excursion that day. He stared in disbelief; unable to comprehend why I could not wait a few more days for Amazon to deliver. It was only when I could see my fan self through his eyes that I realised just how unutterably SAD I was being. Fortunately the book was amazing but when I thought I had made similar trips for Grimm Reality and Reckless Engineering my heart sunk. Why is it we fans just cannot be patient?
6) "I love that coat!", the sixth Doctor.
Oh yes folks! Never underestimate the power of that multi coloured monstrosity the sixth Doctor had to wear! And Simon is not the only one who was instantly attracted to this Doctor because of his eyesore attire either! My friend Matt's girlfriend thought he was a laugh riot before he even opened his mouth! You see despite all our preconceptions that people will immediately be turned off by something we have all acknowledged as embarrassing in the show, sometimes we get it totally and utterly wrong. Sometimes we are the ones who are biased and critical and the non-fans can see things for what they really are, a bit of a laugh really. Simon had similar reactions to the Skarasen, the Myrka and the Bollock Monster from The Chase, not endless mocking like us fans but just a glowing appreciation for the abilities to convince in days gone by.
5) "Tack, tack, tack... don't like it", the McCoy era.
In all honestly I would have thought that the McCoy era would be an ideal jumping on point for non-fans. The production values are pretty good, there is a lot of self-referencing, McCoy and Aldred have a gentle rapport but Simon despises the McCoy era. He says the script editor was trying to hard with both the Doctor and Ace, trying to make one more mysterious than McCoy has the ability to be (hah!) and Aldred into some 'identifiable' adolescent. He hates the stupid little moments too, saying the Doctor leaving a note for himself is crap, that the chess in Fenric stretching through Silver Nemesis was desperate and that Hale and Pace turning up in a grocery shop was the final straw. I could see through his eyes the reaction of the public in 1989, they (and he) did not want fun little quirks or 'arcs' but good, original stories. I love season twenty-six but Simon considers it the worst of all the Doctor Who he has seen. His reaction to the "BOOM!" scene in Battlefield was one of combustible laughter. And don't get me started on his hatred for the 'oddball' stuff, Greatest Show and Happiness Patrol coming under a lot of fire.
4) "Hmm, nice accent", Jamie.
This is Simon's oh-so-subtle way of telling me he fancies a youthful Frazer Hines in a kilt. Well who can blame him. We've all had one companion who we find utterly irresistible; Rob Matthews' repressed nature excluded (unless we put Justin Timberlake in the TARDIS for him, ay Rob?) and Simon was no exception. Strange how we fans come to this show seeking escapism from the rigours of reality and end up falling totally head of heels with someone (I find Sarah Sutton quite a babe too!). Bizarre really, your sexuality seems to flower through the show; you reach that age where you are suddenly sexually aware and then Leela/Sarah/Peri becomes your one true hottie... a marvellous example of how Doctor Who can contribute with your adolescence in more ways than one (now clean the sheets).
3) "Why is the Eye of Harmony on Gallifrey", The Deadly Assassin
Oh this is an absolute stonker! I stupidly thought to show the TV Movie to Simon before any of the televised stories thinking he would appreciate the fast editing, the gorgeous actors and the special effects... so I was left dumbfounded when he accused The Deadly Assassin of dealing with continuity incorrectly! I quickly pointed out it was made nigh twenty odd years before and established much of the continuity of the series. My point is even a NON-fan noticed how arse over heels that TV movie was when it came to dealing with continuity and if THEY are faulting its logic what hope do the rest of us have?
2) "I love it!", Trial of a Time Lord.
A personal one here but I have to admit I was terrified when he showed interest in watching the longest Colin Baker story. Imagine my joy when he demanded I put on video after video, desperate to find out what happened next. He loved the guest stars ("It's Joan Simms!" "Aha Brian Blessed!" "It's that bird from The Upper Hand!"), he LOVED Peri's departure (he often screams out "You take it upon yourself to act like a second rate God!"), he screamed with Bonnie, laughed at the rude shaped Vervoids and sat there slack jawed when it was revealed the Valeyard was the Doctor... maybe you do have watch the whole lot in a day to 'get it', maybe it really is a superbly structured story with lots of fun involved, maybe Simon and I are just insane but I cannot think of a single story I watched with him that enjoyed more. Just don't say 'Knacker's Yard' to him or he will recite the entire Colin rant. My point here is that non fans don't see what we see, the behind the scenes nightmare, the hiatus, the previous season... they just see what is in front of them and enjoy it for what it was. Perhaps we should have our Who memories wiped and start again. Or perhaps it was too like Star Trek: Voyager that he could not resist.
1) "Are you trying to provoke a reaction?", my own fifth Doctor review.
My all time favourite because it is a reference to the Ratings Guide itself. Picture this, a smug looking and totally relaxed Joe Ford (Daniel Beddingfield with shorter hair should do it) sitting at his computer cracking his knuckles and preparing to dance his fingers across the keyboard and write a scathing review of Peter Davison's portrayal of the big guy. I happen to mention to Simon that I am going to enjoy writing this sadistic, sarcastic, contemptuous review and he mentions idly that perhaps I was enjoying the thought of some of your reactions out there. I realised with amusement (and horror) that he was right, because sometimes it is delightful to have your work acknowledged, sometime questioned, sometimes insulted... I love a heated debate as well as the next person and Simon made me realise I was getting extremely good at ruffling some people's feathers! To prove my point I can honestly say I have never received so many responses as I have to that review, some of them shockingly biting! Hahaha! I love it! And bet some of you guys do too!
It is weird to think of Doctor Who being enjoyed these days by somebody who isn't already a fan but I can honestly that Simon has increased my enjoyment of the show tenfold. Seeing the show through his eyes has rekindled the magic, any lasting dissatisfaction I might have with watching the same videos over (see my Seeds of Death review) are vanquished when I sit and watch them with my lover.
So don't give up hope! Invite your friends over for a Who session, get your boy/girl friends in front of the box; it is good way to spent time together. You might see the show in a whole new way.
Top Ten First Doctor Stories by David Massingham 21/3/04
The adventures of Billy Hartnell and his various companions have an odd duality to them in my mind. On the one hand, when it comes to quality, the First Doctor's era would be one of the last I would turn to. I cannot say as to whether this is a indictment of the writing and production of his stories, or simply because I just don't "gel" with the more stately pace of early 60s television. On the other hand, I have an infinite ammount of time for William Hartnell's portrayal of the Doctor, a sometimes kindly and sometimes mean-tempered scientist.
So in this top ten list, whilst the stories are listed in order of personal preferance (tenth though to glorious first place), I must preface by stating that here are, to my eye, substantial flaws with many of the episodes featured. But I couldn't do a top four, could I? It simply doesn't have the same ring to it. Instead of getting to number nine and saying "well, it really isn't that good, but parts two and three have some nice moments", I'm going to point out what William Hartnell does in each example which helps me to love his performance that little bit more.
Thus, with trumpets and trombones singing in fanfare, we begin at number ten...
10. An Unearthly Child
The First Doctor is initially presented to us as a rascally old man, his motives are unclear, and he kidnaps(!) his first set of companions without a yay or a nay from them. And Hartnell pulls it all off with aplomb.
9. The Tenth Planet
Jumping to the other end of the spectrum, The Tenth Planet sees a completely different Doctor -- one who believes in defeating evil and championing the oppressed. The Doctor's confrontations with the Cybermen form the strongest scenes in the story, and we see unequivocally that this is a man who stands by his beliefs. In his performance, Hartnell manages to embue potentially mundane lines like "It's far from being all over" with a purpose and a strange emotional whallop, especially when one realises that this was the First Doctor's final hurrah.
8. The Keys of Marinus
Silly fun, and Hartnall's performance echoes the escapist feel of this season one adventure. His staunch defence of Ian, his gentle chastising of Susan in part two, and that genuinely hilarious moment where he mistakes a grimy mug for a wonderful scientific miricle.
7. The War Machines
This is one of the First Doctor's most pro-active outings, and it's great to see him confronting the War Machines, and going so far as to capture one. His chemistry with his companions is great here, particularly Ben, and I love his reaction to Dodo's message to "send her love".
6. The Sensorites
Not as dull as all that. And William Hartnell gives one of his best performances here. Favourite moment? Well, pretty much every time he gets exasperated and starts shouting at the First Elder! He just doesn't learn...
5. The Daleks
He's just going to leave! All he wants is his blasted fluid link! It's wonderful seeing the Doctor's attitude towards the Thals and the Daleks evolve over the course of this adventure. In part six (or is it five?), we get the terrific moment when the Doctor finally gets it -- these Daleks are up to no good, and Billy is jolly well going to let them have it! "This senseless, evil KILLING!!!"...
4. The Time Meddler
Not only a lovely story, but we also get one of my favourite double teams -- the First Doctor and the Monk. The rivalry bubbling under the surface in their arguments is palpalble, and we are privy to some wonderful moments... the Monk first capturing the Doctor, the Doctor "holding up" the Monk with a stick, and, of course, William Hartnell looking very fetching in a Monk's habit. The Time Meddler gives us one of Hartnell's very best performances, and the viewer sees here just how much this actor loves this role...
3. The Gunfighters
...which Billy shows us with even more clarity in this story. There are too many moments to mention, but heck, I'll try -- the Doctor holding the Clantons at gun-point; the moment when he leans back to accept some painful dental torture, complete with camera zooming into his mouth; his habit of continually refering to Wyatt Earp as "Werp"; the moment when he denounces spitting once and for all ("disgusting habit!"); the Doctor's reaction to Steven giving him the gun; and too many more.
2. The Aztecs
We all know how beautifully put together this story is. And it is Willaim Hartnell who gives it a heart. His scenes with Cameca are simultaneously funny and touching. Watching their interactions one can almost believe the two working as a couple, and then the entire illusion is shattered with Hartnell's perfectly played reaction to finding out he just got engaged. Seeing him trying to leave the Aztec world without causing any ripples between him and Cameca, trying to "let her go" gently... it all becomes rather sweet. There is only one episode where I feel Hartnell gave a better performance...
1. The Romans
...and, suprise, suprise, it was in my favourite First Doctor tale. Honestly, this is smashing story, and it would have fallen flat on its face if it wasn't for the dedication and consumate comedic timing of this one man. His battles with the tongueless assassin, his fights with Ian and Barbara, his impersonation of Maximus... it is all played to a tee. A spot on performance, and a wonderful story -- for me, the best to feature the First Doctor.
The Top Ten DVDs I'd like to see by Rob Matthews 22/3/04
The top 16 performances any prospective Doctor should see by Rob Matthews 29/3/04
Sometime between my starting this list and completing it, they went and announced the casting of Christopher Ecclestone as the new Doc. And the best thing is he's not Alan Davies!!! Guess I'll have to postpone my dream of an older female Doctor (a Maggie Stables type) travelling the universe with a guh-horge-ous boy companion, but one never knows what's coming next in Who-dom... Anyhoo, this is my own personal 'Doctor perormance' canon:
Ten Words that Doctor Who fans understand that no-one else does by Mike Morris 29/3/04
Now, most words in Doctor Who are either normal ones, like "the" or "of" or "Logopolis" (most story titles have one of those three). Then, on top of those there's the technobabbly ones that we all know, like "bonded polycarbide armour" or "Blinovitch Limitation Effect" or "chronic hysteresis", which are nice but serve no real purpose - although some can be smugly trotted out if conversation ever drifts round to the philosophy of time travel, allowing the average fan to display their superior knowledge of this complex topic.
There is, however, a third subset in the Doctor Who dictionary. These words aren't technobabble. Most of them are perfectly permissible English words. It's just that, like ninety-eight percent of English words they're almost never used and no-one knows what they mean - except, thanks to some bizarre accident, Doctor Who fans. There is only one thing to do with such words; use them as much as possible, to the amusing mystification of the outside world. And here are my ten favourites.
Ten Non-Who Who-ish books by Mike Morris 31/3/04
Who's gone and stolen Rob Matthews' idea then? Well it seemed like a good one. Like Rob, I'm not the biggest fan of sci-fi outside of Doctor Who, and the thought of producing a list of non-Doctor Who books with a Who connection was too much fun to pass up.
An immediate problem is that Rob's a damn sight better read than I am; what's more, most of the "straight" fiction I read is completely unlike Doctor Who (I tend to like my books ugly and disturbing, preferably with the central character falling apart and ending up in a loony bin). In a way, though, that made that list easier to write... these are a bunch of books that may or may not be overtly Who-ish, but for one reason or another tickled that part of me that, usually, only Doctor Who can reach. Ugh, sounds like a beer advert. Oh well. So some resemblances may be tenuous, but still; these are good reads.
Kazuo Ishiguro: An Artist of the Floating World. A political book about repression (well duh, it's by Ishiguro), but the scenario - although historical fact and related desperately seriously - of a whole group of artists copying the work of a master artist slavishly is ridiculous and beautiful, and like something out of one of Who's more oddball tales. The narrator is a character lost in the present day and constantly reminiscing about the past, sometimes reminiscing about reminiscing... it gives the whole thing a dreamlike quality that has an odd feel of Doctor Who, although it's never overtly like it...
Flann O'Brien: The Third Policeman. A guy who read a lot of James Joyce (nobody's read all of James Joyce, surely?) and took all the best bits, Flann O'Brien is made for Williams-era fans. Incredibly funny, literate, satirical, and strangely disturbing, The Third Policeman is an off-kilter trip through a twisted parody of an Irish country village, with all sorts of bizarre concepts and skewed characters thrown in the mix, some images that are both haunting and hilarious, and an absolutely stunning ending. His other books, The Dalkey Archive and At Swim-Two-Birds are also amazing; this is the kind of Doctor Who that Paul Magrs has been trying to write. And speaking of which...
Paul Magrs: Aisles. I've only recently delved into Magrs' non-Who fiction and it's really very good, and this shows just what he can do when he gets his finger out and makes the effort. A witty, affectionate commentary of a host of disparate characters, this is a sweet little book in which the characters morph and change according to whose eyes we see them through. Clever. Oh, and did I mention that it's got a mysterious woman called Iris and a Terror of the Autons reference? Well it does.
Salman Rushdie: The Moor's Last Sigh. Rushdie's love-letter to, well, love, and my favourite of his books (the ones I've read, anyway). Those who like their books short and to the point may find this a stretch, but the way Rushdie turns the everyday into a treasure-trove of storybook settings is the kind of thing the Fourth Doctor would appreciate. An epic tale of love and hate, captured in beautiful settings and seen through the eyes of a child in a man's body. Sound familiar?
Agatha Christie: Curtain, Poirot's Last Case. I love Hercule Poirot! He's great, and it's not too hard to work out why... Poirot is a cartoonish eccentric, an outsider, arrogant, aloof, thoughtful, beating the villains by just confronting them with the truth... apart from the accent he's far closer to the Doctor than the old chestnut of Sherlock Holmes. This is a great little whodunit, with surprising moments of psychological insight, and a jolly English companion-type in Captain Hastings. Lots of fun, very clever... oh and by the way, David Suchet (who plays Poirot on telly) would be a great Doctor...
Vladimir Nabokov: Pale Fire. A truly shocking story, in which the main character reads like a warped sort of anti-Doctor; a hermit obsessed by beauty, drawn to tales of a beautiful faraway land, and trapped in the barren, prosaic complexity of the everyday world. This book makes me think, weirdly, of the Caught On Earth arc. And one can't help but wonder if the strange structure of this book might have been in Mad Larry's mind when he wrote Adventuress.
Robert Westall: The Wind Eye. The idol of my early teens, Robert Westall was a bloody genius of children's literature and the best Doctor Who writer never to write for the programme. All his books show the supernatural hovering on the edge of the everyday world. This is my favourite of his books; it's got a science-versus-magic debate, a mysterious and powerful hermit, time-travel, and uses healthy dollops of folklore. I'm not sure if it's still in print, but it's the sort of book that floats around second-hand bookshops. Like a lot of Robert Westall's books, it's so Who-ish it's spooky.
Italo Calvino: Invisible Cities. Plot? Books have to have a plot? The tenet of this is that Marco Polo sits with Kubla Khan and describes the cities he's seen on his travels. That's it. Invisible Cities is a collection of the sort of poetic images that only Calvino can describe, beautifully written, that grab the imagination and pull it all sorts of ways. Some of them are haunting, some funny, others gorgeous; if you like to think of Doctor Who as a tour around the wonders of the universe, this should suit you.
Douglas Adams: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. Yes, all right, so this is killingly obvious. It still warrants a mention though, because this is ten times the book that Hitch-Hiker's is. I should also mention that it features huge tracts of Romana's dialogue from Shada, a character called Professor Chronotis, and rather striking plot parallels to City of Death. Still genius though; it's less overtly funny than Hitch-Hiker's, but the way that every minor occurrence in the book ties into to the overarching plot in a deceptively disciplined way is so satisfying. Oh, and its sequel, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, is even better.
Jose Luis Borges: The Aleph. Borges is a close cousin of Calvino's, and this is just about my favourite collection of his; although really I'd recommend just buying his complete works and ploughing on through them. Borges' short stories tend to be about the same few things... labyrinths, dreams, knife-fights, and - wouldn't you know it - mysterious ancient strangers. Oh, and the eponymous story The Aleph features something vaguely like a TARDIS. The collection as a whole is just wonderful.
My top-ten (well actually it's eleven) MAs/PDAs by Matthew Dean 12/4/04
Well finally I got round to writing my second review about 15 months after my Fifth Doctor review. In that time I've moved to London, graduated with my MA, got a "proper" job and read a lot of Doctor Who novels. In fact it's basically been worth moving to London simply because of the sheer volume of cheaply available Doctor Who material available. Anyway here are 11 books I would recommend to anyone to go and read:
11: Last Man Running
Well-crafted runaround from a man who really knows his characters (as he bloody should, since he's been writing them for about a hundred years). I love the way that the environment is gradually reacting to Leela's presence. Leela is a character I've grown to like over the past year (having finally got some of her stories on video/DVD), and she works well with the 4th Doctor.
10: Invasion of the Cat-People
Just read this a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed it. The storyline is fairly flimsy but the book is written with real style, I love the dreaminess of it, especially the bits set in Ancient Australia. Also enjoyed Gary Russell's preferred cast-list. It added to the experience.
9: Dreams of Empire
Excellent use of the Troughton base-under-siege format. Great characterisation of all the regulars, particularly the Doctor. Good twist at the end. Has Justin Richards ever written a bad book? Not in my opinion.
8: The Witch Hunters
Extremely claustrophobic atmosphere. Disturbing, chilling and utterly brilliant. Possibly the scariest Doctor Who book of all time, and yet it is a historical adventure. I hated it and loved it at the same time. Susan's stupidity was both extremely annoying and an accurate reflection of the character.
7: Venusian Lullaby
Strangely enough, I don't own many Hartnell stories on video, yet love the 1st Doctor in novels, he really is a great character, and this is one of his best. Venus is a really interesting society, and I felt genuinely sad to know that the Venusians would eventually die out (despite a relatively upbeat ending).
6: Bunker Soldiers
Another superb historically-set story featuring the 1st Doctor. I read this in about a day, which is always a sign of how much I'm enjoying a story (Parasite took weeks to finish, I found it so bad). There is a sense of impending disaster throughout the book, paralleled with the Mongols approaching outside the city, and the robotic killer within.
5: The Crystal Bucephalus
The first ever "original" Dr Who material I ever purchased, as when the NAs started I was still collecting the target novelisations, and after reading about the NAs in DWM, I felt they were not something I wanted to buy into. Great setting, my favourite Doctor, lots of fanwank and technobabble, perfect. There are so many great moments, (actually the book is essentially a series of set-pieces), my favourite being the Doctor's five-year trip in the middle of the adventure. This book probably ensured my continued interest Doctor Who to this day, for which I am glad.
As you may have guessed, I love historical settings of one kind or another. Apart from some disappointment with the characterisation of Nyssa, this is great, I read it soon after visiting Oxford for the first time and that really enhanced the experience for me. The 4th Doc is superb in this.
Probably the best realised world that I've ever come across in all the Dr Who books I've read. I just felt that living Europa would be so much fun. The 4th Doc is again superb, light-hearted for almost all of the book, but we see flashes of his darker side, a Doctor with a real passion for justice and defending the weak. The secondary characters are all great as well, and there is a classic villain. One thing I never figured out though, what is the "evil" that is worse than Sperano/Managra? (actually if anyone could tell me that would be appreciated)
2: The Infinity Doctors
A strange one this, I imagined it with McGann as the Doc and it really worked for me. I like the idea of exploring the Doctor's emotions. I've always felt he is capable of love and emotion, but has put these things aside in his crusade around the universe. Also, it contains a good fleshing out of the Omega plotline, Omega coming across as a tragic figure, which I feel is what he should be. Just great all round.
1: The Sands of Time
Atmosphere, Atmosphere Atmosphere. Well, what can I say, has there ever been a better piece of Doctor Who, a better story than this ever in any medium? I've read, seen and listened to plenty of material and I've certainly not found it. This book is perfect in every way, but I enjoyed the Victorian stuff best. I don't know why, but Doctor Who always works best for me in a Victorian setting, it just feels right. I like stories that are set over a reasonable period of time as well, not just one or two days, but weeks and even months. I felt genuinely sad when the Doctor and Tegan had to leave Atkins behind, but happy that he had been liberated by his experiences. Well I won't go on forever about this book, it (along with several others mentioned) deserves its own separate review.
In conclusion then I suppose would have to say that thinking about this list has allowed me to analyse what I consider makes good Doctor Who. The top thing for me is atmosphere, where the story takes places in many ways more important than what happens, I have to believe in these places. Also, it's fair to say I like a measured pace, I don't want too many things to happen too quickly. Then I like the Doctor to have a lot to do, I definitely do not want him on the sidelines for most of the story. Finally the plot has to make sense. I know that this should be self-evident but in the case of many Doctor Who novels I feel the author feels it is more important to be "cool", "edgy" and "experimental" than to actually tell a good story (examples of this being Parasite and the truly awful Longest Day, a book so bad I very nearly gave up Doctor Who novels forever). Essentially Doctor Who should be about good stories well told, that's it.
Top Ten Thinking-outside-of-the-box Casting Suggestions For The New Assistant by Andrew Wixon 15/4/04
As I write this the casting of Rose Tyler, the new assistant, has yet to be finalised (or announced, anyway). Given the brave new modern style apparently being attempted, I thought I would offer a few casting suggestions for this key role that Rusty and the gang seem to have overlooked in favour of credulity-boggling performers like Billie Piper (Fandom: 'Why in God's name are you auditioning her?' Rusty & Co: 'Because we want to! Because we want to!' etc.). Surely one all-singing, all-dancing former child star was enough!
Off Target: 10 Things Improved by the Novelisations by Phil Fenerty 18/4/04
For those of us of a "certain age", the Target novelisations provided a valuable service. I was too young to appreciate the series when Jon Pertwee was the dandy time traveller, and it was only when Tom Baker stepped into the hat and scarf that I began to appreciate and enjoy Doctor Who.
The first story I watched on broadcast was The Sontaran Experiment. After that, I was hooked. Imagine my delight when I found out that there was a book about the new Doctor's first adventure (available before Revenge of the Cybermen had even started!). I devoured Doctor Who and the Giant Robot with glee, and besieged my local branch of WH Smith's at every opportunity for more in the series.
Unconstrained by such paltry trifles as "budgets" and free to imagine the people, places and artefacts as their creators would have wanted, the early Doctors' adventures lived in my childish imagination with vigour and vibrancy. Images of how things should look, however, are not the same as presented on TV - as I eventually discovered when the video age came about.
So, I hereby present a list of ten disappointments - those things which Target books made real, solid and alive in my imagination, only to be cruelly dashed into dust when the videos/DVD's became available. They are presented in chronological order, and stop at the point where I started watching the TV programme. I will leave the impact of later novelisations to those better suited to discuss them.
David Whitaker's loose novelisation of The Daleks takes a number of liberties with Terry Nation's original script. However, The Glass Dalek encountered in the city (during and after the Thal attack) was part of the story as envisaged, and dropped when cost constraints intervened.
This creature was seen very much as a leader of the Daleks (they would not have such an iconic figurehead again until The Emperor Dalek makes his presence felt in Evil of the Daleks). It would also have meant revealing exactly what manner of creature lived inside the casing - only hinted at during the course of the narrative on screen.
The book reveals that the creature is a mutated humanoid "wearing the fluid link... like a necklace." The idea of Daleks collecting trophies is original (and almost fits in with their "personality") and it is a shame that it vanished. It also gives a reason for their retention of the link, when under normal circumstances it would be just so much junk.
We had to wait over 20 years for a glass Dalek to actually appear (Revelation of the Daleks) and the world was all the poorer for it.
The TARDIS console room of the early seasons was a vastly different place to that seen in the Tom Baker years. The walls are not all roundels - instruments and machines can be seen scattered around the room. Only the TV Movie has returned to this concept, with a vast console room incorporating, for example, stores and a library.
Doctor Who and the Zarbi describes how the Doctor and Ian remove a part of the TARDIS control room and take it into the Animus' lair. Exposed only to the later versions of the TARDIS, this young reader imagined a section of the console itself being withdrawn. The various later descriptions, showing radar traces and Menoptera troop movements, show the Astral Map to be a highly sophisticated piece of equipment.
But no. A slim pillar, with some switches and a very unconvincing set of cardboard stellar diagrams (one of which MOVES, so we know it isn't a real screen) is dragged from a previously unseen section of the TARDIS. I wanted to cry when I saw it.
The prologue features Barbara and Vicki engaging in a game of Martian Chess. Sadly, this is more of Whitaker's wonderful invention, and was never even dreamt of on screen. The idea of "marrying" off pieces on opposite side (to what end, I know not!) is probably unique in game theory. For years, I yearned to see exactly what the pieces and board looked like - until I discovered they didn't exist.
Sounds like a fine, honourable game for an Ice Lord to engage in!
Cyber-weaponry has been subject to many changes over the years - not least from screen to printed page. But not even Gerry Davis' description of their powerful laser weaponry could brace me for what I saw when The Tenth Planet arrived on video. The best description of these guns would be "Hideous Clunky!"
They actually look as if they are part of the chest unit, not a powerful armament. They are heavy and cumbersome (the actors in the suits struggle with them at times) and probably unworkable as personal weapons in a serious conflict. Which is a shame, because the rest of the Cybermen design is actually very good - the most "organic" of these creatures until the glass-jawed fellows appeared in Earthshock.
Whilst the novel version (Doctor Who and The Cybermen) has its faults, there is much to commend it. This book imbues the whole base, and the Gravitron it is built around, a sense of gravitas.
The descriptions of the machine, contained in a sound-proofed room and towering above the regulars, make it seem powerful, with complicated control desks and important operating procedures. And, to top it all off, protective ear defenders to allow the operators to work in a harsh environment in some comfort.
What little of The Moonbase remains, however, gives lie to the book's proceedings. The Gravitron is poorly realised for such an essential prop, and the control system for it is more primitive then the TARDIS console of the time.
But what really fails to impress - and is amazingly unconvincing into the bargain - are the "helmets" the operators wear. The Costume Department obviously ran out of money early on this story, and made these "protective garments" from the scraps of quilting left over from the space suits the TARDIS crew used during their moon-walk. Shocking.
The Nestene Consciousness is an intriguing idea, a gestalt entity capable of manifesting a portion of itself on a distant world. This is exactly the sort of hard-nosed sci-fi deservedly presented to viewers of Season Seven.
Actually, there are echoes of The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear: disembodied alien menace seeking physical foothold on Earth uses robot servants to achieve its aims. Where the two Troughton stories win over, however, is that The Great Intelligence is never seen on screen.
Doctor Who and The Auton Invasion paints a terrifying picture of the fully formed Nestene creature as it emerges from its gestation tank. And not just through the power of words - there's a fairly nasty "artist's impression" of a one-eyed, hook-beaked, obnoxious octopus staring out of the page.
(If that's the ideal form for Nestenes to adopt on Earth, no wonder they didn't manage to invade properly - they wouldn't last five minutes on Oxford Street during rush hour!)
As realised in Spearhead From Space, however, what we have is five minutes of Jon Pertwee vainly wrapping a rubber tentacle around his neck in a poor attempt to convince the audience that The Doctor is about to get strangled, and for the next 21 weeks, Saturday tea-times will feature the test-card and some light music. The whole effect is as threatening as a rubber chicken, and as convincing as a TV wrestling match.
The whole dratted story!
Malcolm Hulke's novelisation is approximately one million times better than the TV serial. The characters come alive, back-story and motivation are revealed and a dull televised run-around becomes a story of a desperate struggle to survive on an inhospitable planet, with a bleak and crowded Earth as the only alternative. If the BBC had wiped the tapes of Colony In Space, it would be no great loss: Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon is a far better story.
(Also, see my Top 10 Non-TV Productions list for an homage to the prologue, which sets up the story for an age when few novelisations were available).
The descriptions in the book Doctor Who and the Curse of Peladon really bring the alien delegations to life (happily avoiding any phallic references to Alpha Centuri!). They also conspire to make Arcturus seem to be a genuinly threatening and nasty alien creature, ensconsed in a life support system to keep him safe and warm.
Viewing The Curse of Peladon, what we find is this: a blob of plastic which fell off the back of a lorry as it was reversing, then thrown into a plastic globe smeared in something nasty to make it seem as if it was in a sustaining fluid. The pipes into the hood look about as capable of carrying nutrients as Pluto is of supporting human life. One of the very worst realisations of an alien race foisted onto an unsuspecting public.
Aggedor only escapes criticism because of his soft spot for Venusian Lullabies.
Despite the constant sniping from those complaining that it's a selection of cold cuts from The Daleks, this story actually stands up well on its own merits. It has some wonderful set-pieces: revealing the invisible Dalek; the destruction of the Thal ship; the escape up the chimney.
Where it all comes to pieces, however, is the realisation of the ice-caves in which are stored "10,000 Daleks." When we finally get to see them, they are in little more than a chilly section of the warehouse storing the pull-along Dalek toys which hadn't sold during the Dalekmania boom ten years earlier.
The differences between studio and model shot are glaringly obvious (the toys aren't even in the correct proportions), and there isn't any sense of menace in what little movement is generated. Showing a few Daleks in tight shot (yet another example of the "less is more" philosophy) would have resulted in a far better end product.
Up until the K-1 robot grows to the size of skyscraper, this story didn't disappoint. My childish glee on its original reading was well-founded, as a scatty new Doctor investigates pulverised daisies and Sarah-Jane Smith infiltrates shadowy scientific elites. Even the normal-sized version of the robot is - well, actually - magnificent.
Things all fall apart, however, when the CSO and a Palitoy tank conspire to create a less-than-convincing effect of giantism. Bits of the Robot vanish momentarily as key-colour reflections impinge on the prop. Of all the excellent effects Doctor Who has pioneered over the years, this isn't one of them. In all honesty, it's plain ropey. The Skarasen from Terror of the Zygons wasn't much better, either - didn't anyone learn from this debacle?
Top scariest moments by Joe Ford 23/4/04
It's odd, Doctor Who is famously known for its tea time terror, indeed it has been in trouble more than enough times for scaring the crap out of kids but I have to admit it rarely had that effect on me. Fabulous entertainment to be sure, but rarely the champion of childlike horror it was claimed to be. Go and watch BBV's The Zero Imperative to see how skin-crawlingly terrifying Doctor Who (related) material can be. However throughout the years there have been rare moments that have really 'got' to me, for one reason or another and I'd like to share them with you, it might be interesting to see if any of these flickers of body and psychological horror scared you too If not, I'd love to know what sends shivers up your spine...
Top Ten Dalek stories by Joe Ford 28/4/04
An essential list for any newcomer to the series (and I should imagine that people will appear in their droves after the new series starts), this is a catalogue of the Daleks greatest triumphs. Let's face with Doctor Who comes the Daleks and with the Daleks comes Doctor Who, I for one hope that they get this copyright nonsense out of the way because the show without these absurd looking creatures will be lacking the basic drive that has kept it running all these years. Big Finish release a Dalek story every so often so they can keep their sales up, Justin Richards desperately wanted to use the Daleks at the climax of his story arc in the EDAs... they just inspire creativity and affection despite being the most despicable creatures ever to roam the cosmos.
So in my personal opinion this is how and why the Daleks have succeeded so well...
10) The Time of the Daleks: What? Are you insane I hear you shriek! Never in a million years would I accept that this is a perfect Doctor Who story, there is too much technobabble and the middle episodes, despite being wonderfully exciting are a little too cluttered full of Justin Richards' BIG IDEAS. However the reason this is my (second) favourite Dalek story from Big Finish is the wonderful conceit of hearing the monotonous creatures quoting Shakespeare, what Justin Richards gets that Mike Tucker and Stephen Cole don't is that (even on audio) the Daleks work best when they are put in an incongruous situation, one you could never imagine them in. For some strange reason this is where they work best, highlighting both them and the clever ideas at work.
What's more Justin makes them loud and nasty without going over the top. They kill and scream, sure but there is always a purpose. I just love it when one Dalek bursts into the room screaming, "Drop the communicator!" and proceeds to destroy it, the audience however duped into thinking it has killed Viola. Brilliantly the Daleks need help in this story so they are under a pretense of friendship and are often more terrifying when they are being helpful and friendly.
The Evil of the Daleks steals are obvious but then comes the final, time looping twist and The Time of the Daleks forges a distinct identity of its own. Clever and one of the few Big Finish stories that demands a re-listen.
9) Remembrance of the Daleks: Easily the most stylish of all the Dalek stories and one that remains impressively big budget looking today. It capitalises cleverly on the racial issue brought up (but never explored) in Revelation and has black and white Daleks at each others throats in a not so subtle but very worthy attempt to parallel human issues through the creatures.
It sees Davros pushed to the sidelines again after stealing the limelight for the past four appearances and the gorgeous looking cream and gold Imperials and the oiled-up Renegades are back to their devious selves, enslaving little girls and head teachers, killing henchmen once their work is done, bringing out the big guns in the form of the Special Weapons Dalek (a bloody great gun that can take out three Daleks at a time) and not caring a jot for the damage they are doing to the timeline. In their desperate procurement of the Hand of Omega, a remote stellar manipulator, the Daleks (through Davros) have reached a new level of megalomania, wanting to turn their home planet into "a source of unimaginable power!" and have mastery of time.
But this is old hat, what truly impresses is how exciting and action packed the story is, full of fastly edited gun battles, huge explosions and loads of Daleks going up in smoke. There is a real life spaceship that provides one hell of a cliffhanger and a chase in the school with Ace and three Imperials that remains one of the most exciting moments in Doctor Who's history.
8) The Power of the Daleks: Oh what a bunch of devious buggers, trapped and dormant in their spaceship the Daleks are reactivated by knowledge hungry scientist Lesterson and set about tricking him and the entire colony of Vulcan that they are benefactors, indeed slaves to their greed. Whilst slowly they are building an army of Daleks and waiting for the moment to emerge and slaughter everybody in sight.
Truly it isn't really the Daleks that are the bad guys in this story but the petty humans who in their separate factions (the rebels, the security force, the scientists) all want to use the Daleks for their nefarious purposes and set about killing each other to get at them, making the Daleks' work all the more easier. Brilliantly, once the sadist Bragen has become the security head everybody in the colony has been massacred and the means to his position of power, the Daleks are responsible. He stands the crying out "You will obey my orders!" rather pathetically, a great moment.
It is a story full of memorable images such as the cobwebby Dalek spaceship, the Dalek POV as it swings around and faces the Doctor and the famous Dalek production line sequence. What's more it is all played seriously and makes the final episode where the Daleks roam the colony and kill all the men women and children all the more powerful.
7) Jubilee: One of the few gems to appear in the Big Finish schedules in 2003, this is a masterwork of switching your perception of the Daleks. Once you have got past the riotous humour and witty lines that crop up in every Rob Shearman script there is an astonishing amount of dramatic material here that takes precedence.
For the majority of the story there is only one Dalek present, a battered and abused prisoner locked up in the Tower of London. Astonishingly Shearman manages to makes us sympathise with this creature despite the fact he is never out of character and acts exactly like a Dalek. He is cruel and twisted, brutal in his reasoning and manipulates several of the characters into performing some horrific torture on each other. But it is his situation that makes this Dalek such a fascinating character, his inability to exist without orders are driving him insane, so much so that he begs the Doctor to give him some just so he doesn't have to think for himself.
But it is through Evelyn's eyes that we see the creature at its most powerful. She is terrified of it and yet her heart bleeds for the torture it has been through. The Dalek cleverly ascertains that they are both 'soldiers', that they both follow orders from their commanders. There are some spinetingling moments between these two as they try desperately to understand each other and form a twisted sort of friendship (I know it sounds absurd but it works!). It is all paid off gloriously when the Dalek returns to his people changed, still a ruthless killer but one who is willing to question his orders.
As a side issue it is wonderful how Shearman comments on the Dalekmania of the sixties by having this England as obsessed with the creatures as we were back then. "Anything with a Dalek on it sells!" says one character. "It's just regular juice but with a picture of a Dalek on the side" says another. A spoof trailer for a Dalek film and some toy Daleks (real life versions albeit with midgets inside) seal the deal of the mockery.
The acting, script, music is all perfect. It's both hysterically funny and powerfully dramatic.
6) Day of the Daleks: The Daleks in this story are rubbish. They are limited in numbers, having ineffective voices and hardly feature in the story in any dramatic capacity. However this is a Dalek story, albeit one that has other issues on its mind and those issues bump it up the list considerably.
It has the feel of movie, featuring some excellent location work and very good sets and the story opens out from a spooky ghost story, to an apocalyptic nightmare to a time travel drama. The actors involved give convincing performances and the direction is suitably inventive. As a whole the story flows very well and the last episode is as powerful as the show comes.
At the end of the day it is a superb script, dealing with the very clever idea of returning back in time to change the past and ending up creating it years before Terminator. The unfortunate side effect of this temporal tampering is the Earth is invaded and controlled by the Daleks and they have enslaved the population. It is a rare glimpse at Dalek subjugation, with a powerful hierarchy system wherein the Daleks use puppet humans to carry out the death threats.
Jon Pertwee is superb in this story, delivering a performance that rivals anything in season seven. He is ably supported by Katy Manning as Jo but they are both outclassed as the wonderful Aubrey Woods as the Controller. He is one of the most genuine and sympathetic characters the show has produced.
5) The Daleks' Masterplan: Okay so it would be nice to omit the Egypt scenes and maybe remove the odd trip to a cricket pitch and a New Year celebration that has no relevance on anything but on the whole this is twelve episodes of thrills and chills in the heart of DALEKMANIA. Their plan to bring together the rulers of the outer galaxies and create a war council to rule the universe is about as grand as their diabolical schemes come and they prove as duplicitous as ever by attempting to kill their allies and grab the power for themselves.
It's basically The Chase: Part Two but told with conviction and style with the Daleks on the Doctor's tail as he runs of with the Terrainium core to the Time Destructor, the super weapon of which they plane to hold the universe at ransom with (or just destroy it, I'm not sure if they actually though that one through).
I am making this sound very B-movie-ish; sort of Flash Gordon-esque but for some reason this comic strip tale is extremely potent. Maybe because it contains the death of two companions, maybe because the actors play the material deadly serious, maybe because the Daleks as directed by bloody brilliant director Douglas Camfield are seriously scary! Who knows but for such an incredible length the story refuses to stop moving or get dull and contains one of the finest climaxes to any Doctor Who story when the Time Destructor ravages the planet Kembel and kills dear Sara Kingdom and all the Daleks with it.
Plus this story comes with the added bonus of Mission to the Unknown, which is a one-episode prelude that spooks you with its foreboding atmosphere. Never before was a story privileged to have a Doctorless prologue and only the Daleks were strong enough to hold up an episode without the familiarity of William Hartnell and his blue box.
4) Dalek Empire: Woah, what an incredible epic that spans the universe and tells the tale of the terrible Daleks and their plans for universal domination. Oh yawn. So to help matters along writer Nicholas Briggs cleverly brings the invasion down to an intimate level by focussing on a group of survivors who are pretending to co-operate with the fiends whilst secretly plotting against them.
It was long past time the Daleks had their own series and Dalek Empire proves without a shadow of a doubt they are strong enough to support one. The first episode features one of the scariest Dalek scenes ever, they have already ravaged a planet they swoop through the mist picking off any survivors.
Susan Mendez proves to be the best ally the Daleks could have, they use her as a figurehead to talk to the slaves on the worlds they have captured and subdue them in to co-operating. The scenes between Susan and the Dalek supreme are chilling, primarily because he knows exactly what makes her tick and seem to delight in frightening her whilst ensuring she will survive. Things take a turn for the worse as Suz starts to show signs of sympathising with the creatures only to start before a crowd and scream "DEATH TO THE DALEKS!" and kick starting the war.
The series has some excellent cliffhangers; the story gathers tremendous momentum as it gathers to its conclusion. There are exciting Dalek space fights and gripping psychological battles. The fourth episode is twist paradise, worthy of Justin Richards as the Daleks reveal, to everybody's horror that their invasion plans had only been a distraction all along, to hide what their real intentions were. To find access to a parallel universe, one ruled by Daleks and seeks help from the creatures to ensure the same result here.
So many spine tingling moments but that last scene is about as excited I have ever been about a Doctor Who related product, even more so than I was about Neverland.
3) Revelation of the Daleks: People say the Daleks are little more than Davros' henchmen in this story and in some ways they are correct, when it comes to the Dalek presence they do little more than shoot when ordered and check people's passes. But what matters here is the idea of the Daleks and one that is wonderfully brought to the fore as psychological horror. People are being turned into Daleks against their will, men of status, after their deaths are being mutated and placed inside Dalek casings. How terrifying is that? "The resting ones I have used were men of status! Ambition! They would understand!" Davros rants.
The celebrated scene of Natasha's father trapped inside the glass Dalek case in mutant form, organs bulging from his head as he tries to resist the ever-strengthening Dalek control is perhaps the best example of this. He struggles with his feelings for his daughter whilst breaking into his speech are rants about becoming masters of the universe, his personality is slipping away to become a terrifying creature of war. I find that scary. But there is also the lovely moment where Davros offers to turn Tasembeker into a Dalek and as she considers a black eye stick swivels close to her...
But it is really Davros' story and it proves, once and for just what a sick bastard he is. He is playing games with people's lives throughout, luring the Doctor to Tranquil Respose to kill him, manipulating others to kill each other (Kara/Orcini, Jobel/Tasambeker) and of course his sickest scheme yet involves dispelling famine by turning the bodies of the dead into food. It is rare glimpse into the mind that created these evil fiends and it is not a very nice place at all.
Plus it helps that the production is sumptuous, the script is twisted and the acting first rate. It also never hurts that the direction of the story, especially of the Daleks themselves is masterful and the high angle shots of their menacing through the corridors shows them at their spine chilling best.
2) The Evil of the Daleks: David Whitaker goes to show just how well he understands these creatures and succeeds in bringing their evil to a psychological level we can understand. The Daleks want the 'Human Factor', all the impulses a human possesses that help them to defeat the Daleks time after time so they can programme these impulses into the Daleks so they never lose. Hah. Yeah right, what they really want is the 'Dalek Factor' to take away all those 'human' impulses from humans so they will all become mindless automatons, in other words Daleks. What devious sods!
Throughout this story we visit the past, the present and the future. We get to see Daleks gliding about a Victorian mansion and are introduced to the super cool Emperor Dalek, a giant booming creature who controls all the others. But coolest of all we get the start of a civil war on Skaro as the Doctor unleashes three of his 'humanised' Daleks into the population and the start asking questions about their evil instructions. It climaxes on the wonderful scene of the Daleks fighting in their Emperor's control room, blowing each other to smithereens whilst their leader screams "DO NOT FIGHT IN HERE!" It was meant as a final end for the Daleks and had it been this would have been a satisfactory and definitive climax.
1) TIE. Sorry folks but I just couldn't decide between the two and so cheating (and technically turning this into a top eleven list) here are my two favourite Daleks stories in the top spot...
The Daleks: The introductory story is still the best we ever saw of the creatures. Never before were they as nasty and devious as they were here and what's more we have all the bonuses of experiencing them fresh and unexpected. The first episode is a scene setter of the highest order, the mystery surrounding the dead city is terrorizing brought to a climax as Barbara is confronted by a strange alien 'hand'...
They look wonderful gliding throughout their city, the wonderfully shaped doors and controls that suit their design. They are loads of them and they glide about with an eerie alieness that quite captures your attention. What's more you can almost believe in their intentions to help the Thals at first until they glide out and massacre their leader at the first opportunity. This is the first demonstration of their true evil. Their second plan, to drop a neutron bomb and destroy all life on the planet except themselves is horrific in its implications.
The Doctor and his companions seem genuinely terrified of the Daleks and that goes a long way towards the audience buying into their absurd appearance. Never would they quite be is scary again, any other Dalek story would be just that, another Dalek story but this is THE Dalek story, the one that set them (and the series) off down the road of success.
Genesis of the Daleks: The introduction of Davros was the second best innovation in the series since the Daleks. Their creator proves to be every bit as evil and corrupt as you could imagine with the added bonus of being quite frightening to look at too. As soon as we realise we are back on wartime Skaro we are into prequel territory, a dangerous place to be sometimes but Genesis manages to paint a realistic and dramatic introduction for the Daleks, on that is grounded in Earthly wartime metaphors.
Their first appearance at the climax to episode one is a definitive Doctor Who moment. Davros' lines "Perfect, the weaponry is perfect... now we can begin" could be as scary as the show ever got in terms of anticipation. Throughout the course of the story it is great to watch how Davros wipes out every single faction that is opposed to his creatures, first his own people, then the enemy, then the bloody scientists who helped create them in the first place. His determination to see the Daleks as masters of the universe no matter what the cost in human lives leaves no questions about his sanity.
When you finally do see the Daleks emerging from the shadows and massacring whoever gets in their way it is far more dramatic than any average Dalek story, realising the purpose behind their creation and the abuse of that purpose to feed one man's ego still chills me today. It is not until Davros is at the wrong end of a Dalek gun that he realises he has made a mistake but by then it is too late. In what is the scariest Doctor Who climax to date, the Daleks kill their creator and face the camera with a rousing speech of how they will "emerge and take their rightful place as the supreme power of the universe!". Now nobody has the power to stop them and they will be coming...
My Top Ten Suggestions for the New Assistant by John Seavey 3/5/04
Although Rose Tyler has not been cast, and as yet remains just an insubstantial wisp in our imaginations, already one person has suggested no less than ten people who could play the part of companion to the new Doctor. Which is nice of him, and all, but I can't help but think it'd be far more valuable to our putative Rose to have a list of suggestions on how to better prepare herself to be the Doctor's assistant. So...
Ten unfulfilled wishes for the BBC book line... by Terrence Keenan 9/5/04
Well, since the BBC line of books is sadly going to be going the way of the Dodo in 2005, some good to intriguing ideas (IMHO) will never get to see the light of day. Here they are, in no particular order: