10) Evil of the Daleks.
An excellent example of how fresh and alive Dudley Simpson's music was in the sixties. Without the constraint of scoring every story like in the mid seventies and his imagination enhanced by the excellent adventures his music here was just brilliant. Of particular note is the wonderful piano score for the house scenes, especially the pan across all of Waterfield's/Maxtible's scientific equipment. Another memorable cue is the really good cliffhanger music he uses several times throughout... an exciting take on the shows own theme tune to shit up whenever a Dalek appears!
9) Pyramids of Mars.
Dudley Simpson again in the middle of the gothic era and it shows. This is an unusally good score considering some of his surrounding stories adding musch drama and severity to the situation. As Ernie Clements is chased through the woods by the mummies we are truly terrified as Simpson adds a frightening 'slasher chase' score to proceedings. Some nice sax work her too, especially during the Doctor's attempt to smuggle the bomb onto the pyramid and I will never forget how effective he makes a simple shaker during Sarah's woodland scenes in episode one.
8) Terror of the Zygons.
Wow. One of my favourite ever pieces of Who music is when Sarah pursues harry through the streets of Scotland and into the barn... it is utterly spine tingling. Geoffrey Burgeon knew what this show needed... soft gentle music for the lighter scenes (the Doctor, Sarah and Harry arrive on the moorlamd) and fast paced atmospheric stuff for the scary bits (the Zygon locks them into the divers unit, the gripping finale with Broton). A welcome change from the Dudley Simpson era and an effective horror score. When listened to alone without the story around it it really does conjour up images that populate your nightmares.
Not a good story but helped tremendously by one of the best eighties scores. The alien world Thoros Beta is conjoured up in no time at all by the sureel, creepy music that leads to the Doctor and Peri landing on the beach. The dramatic ending with Peri killed in a viscous experiment is especially well done, blood pumpingly exciting as the Doctor is dragged away and King Yrcanos discovers his bride to be. The musician wisely chose to cut all music suddenly when we see Colin Baker's horrified reaction ("You... killed Peri...") and it is all the better for it. Even terribly acted and directed moments are given a shred of decency by such a good score (the introduction of the Mentors). The 'skidaddle' test is very, very good.
6) Full Circle.
I love music when it is actually melodical instead of simply punctuating the action (like much of Star Trek music that just has an annoying sting at the end of scenes!) and this is a superb example. Episode one is littered with tunes that stay in your head for ages (Adric's chase through the woodland is great, and so is the mysterious and scart theme for the Marshmen rising from the waters!). Later episodes lay on the heavy snyth stuff for the tense scenes of the Marshmen attacking the Starliner but they are all the better for it. The only disapointment is the annoying 'outler' tune that is played throughout but even that is put to good use during Tom Baker's marvellously zany "Romana!" as loads of strangers pour out of the TARDIS.
5) STOCK MUSIC.
I call it 'Here come the Cybermen' but I understand it has another name. Whatever, you all know what piece I mean. That slightly camp but very menacing music that accompanies the Cybermen marching across the moons surface, the Cybermen bursting from their Ice Tombs on Telos, the Yeti attacking UNIT troops in London... maybe it's because it accompanies so many classic scenes or maybe it's just really, really, exciting!
4) The Aztecs.
A very early piece but I am a sucker for historical scores and this conjours up the brutal and sensitive Aztecs perfectly. I really like the music for the 'Garden of Peace' and actual Aztec theme (all flute-y during the Doctor's first encounter with Aztec gaurds) itself is great. Also good is Ian's fight with Ixta in episode four... let's not forget these early stories and how effective the music had to be.
3) Curse of Fenric.
Mark Aryes, my favourite Doctor Who composer. For such a complicated story this is quite a simple score but it manages to convey the characters emotions and the horror of the situation most effectively. I love the piece as the Church is beseiged by Haemovores... the use of the drum is great! Ace diving in the sea at the end is very effective, excellently revealing the washing away of her hatred for her mother. The early scenes of the Russian guy being pursued by 'something' on the darkened beach is really spooky. Don't watch it alone...
2) The Leisure Hive.
The eighties burst onto our screens with a lots of colour, science and wall to wall music. Peter Howell doesn't disapoint adding many layers to the stories and filling many dialouge-less scenes with memorable music. There are a number of gorgeous scenes of the Hive swirling in radioactive dust and it is made magical, mystical and dangerous by the wonderfully evocative music. The militaristic later scenes are very effective too perhaps too dramatic but never letting us forget the gravity of the situation.
1) The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.
Ayres again and a most wonderful spooky, sureel and atmospheric score. So many pieces to mention... the conductor attacking Ace, Mag's unleashed as a warewolf, Ace pursued through the windswept corridors of the circus, the catastrophic destruction at the end of the Doctor's performance... the story itself is good but the music raises it to a level of excellence. Terrific stuff...
Top Ten also reccomended... by Joe Ford 21/7/02
I won't bother reeling out my top ten favourite stories because I'll be dredging up all the Hinchcliffe/Colin Baker stuff again and I've already more than covered that! Instead here are ten often forgotten and hevily critisised shows that I adore. Go on folks, give 'em another chance... you might just change your mind.
10) The Ice Warriors.
Not only an interesting premise (another Ice Age) but also a fascinatingly realised argument for the computer vs man issues. While there is a hugely entertaining monster plot unravelling we are constantly reminded of the conflict between Penly (man) and Clent (computer) and it is very refreshing to see a story which is just another runaround add some depth and characterisation. The TARDIS crew are on top form with Troughton's marvellous turn as the scientist cum mediator. His scenes with Penley are first rate and his ability to make us afraid of the Ice Warriors is such a talent. The production is good with a realistic Ice face and some standout scenes (the Tardis landing on its side, Jamie attacked by a wolf, the avalanche) and Dudley Simpsons music is fantasitc... his 'womans scream' tune for the ice face is exceptional.
9) Black Orchid.
I already covered this recently but it deserves to be mentioned again. A great purely historical which takes the unlikely team of Doc 5, Adric, Tegan and Nyssa and turns out something that suits their characters but also makes it believable that they would travel together. The murder mystery is all good fun but the standout scenes are the crew relaxing in episode one, after so much drama in their lives it is GREAT to see them finally let go a bit. All hail Sarah Sutton who does a wonderful take on both Nyssa and her double Ann. A gorgeous little two parter and a Davison adventure I would watch again and again.
This has never seemed THAT popular and I cannot see why. Sophie Aldred's textured performance alone is enough to give it a reccomendation. Also of note is the exceptional direction from Alan Wareing who makes a tradition quarry genuinely feel like an alien world, Rona Munro's adult script which unusually for Doctor Who is full of emotion and character growth. The ultimate achievement though is Anthony Ainley who embarassed us with his continually awful Master throughout the eighties who turns in a bravura performance worthy of the Delgado. His feral, desperate Master is shocking and it is a most interesting devlopment, so much did I enjoy his work here it almost makes up for all those terrible Davison stories he ruined.
7) Mark of the Rani.
Unusually for the eighties a historical story with a compelling back drop and rock solid production values. What a shame Sarah Hellings never directed again as she takes Pip'n'Jane's shaky script and turns it into a piece of art (well visually anyway). The scenery is absolutely beautiful and the performances are just as good. Colin Baker just getting in his stride now gets his own villain in the Rani and Kate O'Mara proves ideal for the role. The Master is about too but he is so off his trolley at this point EVERYONE takes the piss out of him and Peri's around acting like a right div (and yet Niccy Bryant still makes her look cool, what an actress!). Top it all of with relatively little violence and a hysterical man turned tree and you have a production that is just quintessentially Doctor Who.
6) The Sun Makers.
Robert Holmes' witty script, Tom Baker on acid, Leela on form, a realistic setting, a fantastic pair of villans, K9 used well... just what is there to complain about? There are too many priceless scenes but the brilliant collector over the roof bit just gets me every time . Who can think of a better way of disposing of the bad guy but chucking him off a building? Genius.
5) Creature from the Pit.
Is it that bad? I don't see it! I really do laugh with the script! I think the jokes are great (Fisher has a real knack for these comedies!) and the plot is worth following too. Who cares if Erato looks like a big nob? What about the Mandrils (don't even get me started on what THEY look like!). The jungle set is incredible... so much so I thought they were on location until I read otherwise! Chris Barry can always be counted on to get everything he can from his script and he charges the story with memorable images and great performances. Lady Adastra is a really good viscous baddie and at the centre of it all is Tom Baker and Lalla Ward and who could possibly dislike those two together?
4) The Romans.
Oh come on William Hartnell's OTT but divine performance alone is worth watching this one for. The cast really send up the humorous script is such style... it feels like a mad Carry On film in places. So many of the jokes are great... the aforementioned steaming scenes, the silent lyre playing, the two TARDIS parties being so close but never meeting, Nero being a lusty 'fellow' and chasing Barbra around the place for a snog, Vicki 'poisoning' Nero... its all told with such a sense of humour it's impossible to critisise. Another example of how experimental the show was in its early days.
3) Invasion of the Dinosaurs.
So underatted! A long script yes but an interesting one with plenty going on. It's characters used wisely, especially Sarah who gets to be a smart arse for a change and Mike Yates who gets some development (woah!). Paddy Russell tries not to captilise on the embarassing dinosaur effects and includes a glossy chase scenes for Pertwee's man of action and some lovely atmosphere with the spooky black and white episode one. I love all the stuff on the spacehip... it seems quite sensible to me! And I adore the final scenes which proves Pertwee and Sladen were a great team.
2) Terror of the Vervoids.
For once a new and really creepy alien for the eighties and not just a shoddy re-design of an old monster. A good, complicated script with plenty to keep you intruiged and twists around every corner. A satisfying ending which is well explained. A good use of a companion who as much as she's complained about actually gets involved with things and doesn't whinge. Colin Baker on form. Honor Blackman. A return to some real horror only two stories after the hiatus for that reason. The terrific cliffhangers. Geez you bunch are a hard lot to please!
1) The Mind of Evil.
A real gritty affair with an exceptionally polished production and a really dramatic script. Who cares if three of the cliffhangers are the same when you have fabulous set pieces like the raid on the prison by the Brigadier, the 'explosive' climax, the raid on the missile... it just looks so expensive and the action scenes are really exciting! Not to mention Delagado at perhaps his coolest and Pertwee in full on arrogant form which never fails to entertain (and yet he shows some frailties to which is a blessing!). Jo is really tough and has her head screwed on defying her stereotype with real style! And gosh dammit its really scary in places too with the Keller machine coming across as a terrifying menace. Great stuff!
Top Ten I wish they had been companions by Joe Ford 1/8/02
There are some characters in Doctor Who that are just so damn fabulous they instantly deserve companion status but for some reason are pushed out of competition by wallys like Dodo and Adric. Here are my particular favourites...
10) Ann Chaplet (The Massacre).
Such a sweet, endearing character, she has some wonderful moments with Steven in The Massacre and they would have made a great team. When she stands up to the Doctor in the last episode I just knew she would be perfect for the show. Oddly considering this is probably the bravest period the show ever had they refused to do a historical companion saying it would be to inconsistent from writer to writer and went with Dodo instead. Go figure.
9) Sara Kingdom (The Daleks Masterplan).
Technically she was a companion as she travels around in the TARDIS a whole lot more than say the Brigadier or Liz Shaw but it would have been nice to see her in a story without the Daleks stealing the limelight as she had such potential. Just listening to the Christmas Day episode she throws herself into the barmy action with such gusto you know she could have been great. Ruthless and deadly too, killing her own brother. Compassionate and charming, she too stood up to Hartnell and even sacrificed her life for him (in a supremely dramatic moment). Another one story companion who had better chemistry with Steven than Dodo.
8) Captain Turner (The Invasion).
Why wasn't he brought over into the Pertwee years as well? He has more charm and sharisma than Benton and 'I'm hetrosexual honest!' Yates put together! His scenes chatting up Isobel in The Invasion are great and he could have been after Jo and Sarah... giving the UNIT troops some much needed character. Oh and he was quite a looker too.
7) Varsh (Full Circle).
Determined, headstrong, resourceful and the guy who played him could act... so why oh why did they choose Adric. Imagine all those Davison stories Varsh could have saved, keeping Tegan and Nyssa together and helping our effete Doctor. The only thing that tarnishes Full Circle for me is his death at the end.
6) Garron and Unstoffe (The Ribos Operation).
Okay things may have been cramped in the TARDIS with Tom Baker, Tamm and these two but how much fun would be to have seen these galatic conmen travel to different planets and trying to extort everyone! The pair of them could have plotted to get rid of Romana! Or at least have her regenerate sooner and go up against Lalla Ward (that would be COOL!). I know these guys are fun because they are one off characters but think of the comic genius they could have bestowed on an already hysterical era!
5) Reagen (Ambassadors of Death).
Ohh, a villanous regular this time. He was so nasty in this story, so dispassionate at all the horror he was causing he was just screaming out to be the Master's henchman! Just think of it, because Delgado was really such a lovable fellow when he did the nasty stuff it felt wrong (come on, it did) so he could have gotten Raegan to do it whilst he just masterminded schemes and traded barbs with the Doctor. Even better, if that final Master story had happened had Delgado not died you could have had Reagen mortified at his bosses death and him be the main villan of season eleven... climaxing in him finally taking the Doctor's life in his last story... ooh the possibilities are endless! Huh, why wasn't I script editor!
4) Aunt Vanessa (Logopolis)
Okay, already I've got Varsh, Nyssa and Aunty Vanessa... I must be mad but it sounds better than Tegan, Adric and Nyssa! I include her simply because she's such a laugh and bloody hell the Davison era needed more of those! So lets have Tegan shrunk to Barbie size and let Aunty Vanessa stumble aboard. She could have stamped on the Master's foot and foiled his schemes then healed Davison after his regeneration. She could have been surrogate mummy to Varsh and Nyssa and it still wouldn't have been as soapy as the season nineteen we got!
3) Brigade leader (Inferno).
C'mon wasn't he just cool? He could have come back with the Doctor from the alternative universe and killed 'our' Brigadier and taken his place. He could have been a real nasty piece of work... working in the shadows, manipulating events, even secretly helping the already cool team of The Master and Reagen to kill the Doctor! Having him kill the Brigadier at the close of episode seven of Inferno would have left the season on a cliffhanging high and made people desperate to see the next episode!
2) Hugo Lang (The Twin Dilemma).
A sweet romance develops in the Colin Baker era, undercutting the more violent tendencies of the era. These two always picking on the Doctor whilst having a grudging respect for him finally fall into each others arms. It all ends in tragedy of course when Peri dies in Mindwarp and Hugo blames the Doctor for her death leading to one of the most dramatic confrontation in Who history when Hugo leaves him claiming he doesn't care about anybody's lives except his own forcing Doc 6 to re-think his violent ways.
1) Amelia Rumford (The Stones of Blood).
This woman needs no introduction. She's as dotty as they come and provides the show with some of it's best laugh out loud moments ever. Also is responsible for one of the sweetest moments in the shows history ("May I ask you a personal question?"). Reiminds me strongly of Evelyn Smythe and I can't think of higher praise.
Top Ten Sexiest Who players by Joe Ford 15/8/02
After all my serious reviews about cliffhangers, drama, wit, acting, blah, blah I decided to write a fun one just to tip the balance. And just so nobody feels left out I have split this straight down the middle, five girls, five boys... so step on board people and find out just who I would lurve to face terrifying adventures with...
5) The Fifth Doctor.
What's that? Peter Davison? The fella you utterly abhor for his bland acting skills? That's right! Because his acting changes nothing about the fact that he's a cute blond with an irresistable smile. When he plays up his british gentleman role it only makes him more sexy. And he's got quite a bod too! No wonder Todd (in Kinda) takes every opportunity to grab his hand!
4) Ben Jackson.
You can almost see his personal ad now: Able seaman, butch with an accent that drives the girls wild. Would like to meet a pretty blonde who falls into danger and needs rescuing a lot. There is something about Ben that makes him very appealing and it's not that he's that great looking. He's an everyday guy and he just wants to help. He contrasts really well against both Hartnell and Troughton playing the young action hero against their mastermind genius. Lovely smile (did I say smile, I meant...)
For his totally gorgeous accent alone. The fact that he wore a whole lot of tight costumes didn't hurt his cause either. His all in rubber number from The Underwater Menace was a particular highlight from that story. Do you know what I love about Jamie (besides being REALLY, REALLY sexy) is the fact that beneath his bravado he's actually a right coward and some part me finds that really attractive (mind you didn't work with Turlough because I think he's a right ugly bugger!). Location shoots are greatly welcomed (think about it).
2) Chris Cwej.
Hmm, whassat dear boy? A book companion? Is that allowed? Well yes becuase he turns out to be the most instantly shaggable Who guy through description alone. The authors were clearly having a ball... rippling biceps, flopping blond hair, tight tops, a package to die for... when he did finally turn up on a cover I can't say I was wholly impressed so I stuck to the image my mind instead. The only Who companion to actually try it on with another guy and for that I am grateful. Maybe my wish for a gay companion isn't so far off after all!
1) The Eighth Doctor.
Oh come on... who else? Dashing, daring, brave, funny and intelligent. And damn phwoar sexy! The long hair and shabby clothes just add to the image of this deeply dysfunctional yet dangerously gorgeous guy. I would follow him into the TARDIS anyday! All the pain they put him through in the book range does nothing but increase my love for this unique character. Oh and just listening to McGann on audio makes my toes tingle.
LET'S HEAR IT FOR OUR FIVE LUSHIOUS LADIES...
Long lashes, a mane of sumptuous blond hair, legs of a supermodel... and all those bizzare yet wonderful sixties fashions! Polly and Ben would make the ideal companion couple... they were just made for each other. And while I'm not fond of the idea of shagging in the TARDIS (sacrilege, darling!) I would make an exception for these two as it seemed foolish that they weren't together!
Sixties companion number two. Zoe is just so cute how can anybody not find her instantly sexy? She wore all those catsuits for a start and the fact that she was brave and intelligent (and yet still capable of the odd scream) made her so much sexier in the eyes of many. I can think of a good few people I know that would LOVE to get trapped in that white void (in The Mind Robber) in that spangly costume.
3) Romana 2.
I think she's got a lovely face, don't you? Really thick kissable lips, says me! Oops, sexuality check! Nah she was the most refined of all companions, she had a large array of beautiful costumes that showed off her figure wonderfully (that school girl thing is so rude I'm not even going there!). The fact that she got off with Doc 4... well somebody had to take him down! You go Lalla! Romana 2 is the only companion who deserved to be a) The 'Doctor' of E-Space and b) President. Aristocratic, but very sexy.
Yes, yes she had to get mentioned. A lot of people are still very fond of Peri and not for her character! I know a (very, very sad) guy who used to freeze frame her most revealing moments! He's been locked up now. Needless to say Peri had two terrifying assets that made her popular with the lads. Enough said.
She wore practically nothing for a start (well leather, but that only helps the image, doesn't it?). She had a fantastic figure and was very well tanned. She had no manners (c'mon lads... didn't you just wanna train her up?). She had a big knife that she killed things with. For most straight men (oh and the lesbians out there) that was enough to make you forgive The Invisible Enemy and Underworld (oh and Invasion of Time) of any crime they commited (mostly being crap!). She wasn't known as 'the girl the fathers watched after the football' for nothing.
Top Ten best covers by Joe Ford /7/02
Okay so some people really aren't fond of the BBC Doctor Who book range and maintain their love for the Virgin line. I get that. But one thing I hope you will concede is how much better the covers are in recent years. The Virgin line seemed happy with a cartoonish print on the front... sometimes well done (Human Nature) other times just apalling (Parasite!). However the books these days come pleasantly wrapped up in flashy covers and here is some of the best...
10) Ten Little Aliens.
I haven't read this yet so I don't know how the cover relates to the book but there's no denying how effective this cover is. It conveys a real sense of danger and menace and the aliens just look gross! Designed by Mike Tucker (just like the equally effective Krill) you can tell a lot of work has gone into the design... and the eyes (looking directly at the reader) are especially creepy. And there's loads of the buggers... all grouped at the front of the cover! Brrr! To add to the effect there is a glorious starlit clifftop with the sillouhette of guys with guns looking down over the aliens. A very intruiging SF cover with extra points for the chills its sends down your spine.
9) The Blue Angel.
Another unread book on my shelf! What an incredibly cover, shocking, striking and blue (my favourite colour!). there's not much to say really but who is this winged, faceless beauty who is staring us? What power does she posses? Its a book I long to read after looking at the cover again.
Simple but very effective this cover comes with remarkable emotion. Its simple symbols... the cross, the blood stained dagger, the roses... it tells you all need to know about the book inside. Simple, compelling and thoughtful. The sun spitting out either side is just gorgeous. Like I said... simple but quite wonderful.
7) Palace of the Red Sun.
Ahh a lazy summers afternoon, I truly cannot think of anything better. The sun goes down and captures the beautiful lanscape with a tranquil orange glow. This cover caught a lot of emotions in me simply because i have spent many a afternoon down the park with friends just laughing and drinking... it reminded me of many good times. Also the glorious fairytale building in the background appealed to my sense of wonder. It's a beautiful and intoxicating brew of colours.
6) The Year of Intelligent Tigers.
This one gets major points for style. The Doctor's face trapped in the reflection of a tiger's eye. Wow, that is imaginative and must have taken yonks to get right! I always thought tigers' (well cats' in general!) eyes are really creepy so this makes me shudder every time I see it. I dunno why Ilike this one so much I just do. It's very distinctive.
Someone said this looks like a disco party! Of all the nerve! I think its just fab... a huge New York-y style backdrop with three male figures standing in a sea of acid! Psychedelic and creepy! This was goes so high up the list because my mate picked this up on the cover alone and read it! He, like me was confused by the cover's significance to the book... but we both agreed (adopts sixties accent) that it was really groovy!
4) The Crooked World.
Another recent cover which deserves its place here for innovation alone! Lots of wierd looking creatures and a spook van surrounding a totally dishy version of Mr McGann! Did I mention that its all cartoony? God it's wonderful, I can still remember when I first saw it and I immediately thought... that one's gonna be good! It's as bold and as clever as the book itself and I hate to repeat myself but McGann looks well dishy as a cartoon!
3) The Adventuress of Henrietta Street.
One of those covers that just screams "I am soooooooo cool!" Its a defining image to see the famous three walking through the flames. It captures the magic, the intelligence and the boldness of the current range. I just love it. It makes the book look complicated, rewarding and clever... so I guess you really can judge this one by its cover!
2) Father Time.
Beautiful would be a one word description. Perfect would be another. And they would decribe both the cover and the book! There is a real sense of wonder with this cover mixed with an (obvious) under the covers feel. I love snow so this cover (and later with Drift) captures some marvellous memories for me but it's not just that. The way the snow melts into little Miranda's cover is just gorgeous. I can remember picking up this book and feeling so excited about Dr Who again... this cover reminded me of all the things that make the show great.
1) Seeing I.
Dark. Mysterious. Compelling. Definitive. Cool. Colourful. Simple. Effective. I think its the best cover I've seen in many, many years.
AND OF COURSE THERE ARE A FEW STINKERS....
4) Autumn Mist
2) Frontier Worlds
1) Book of the Still
My Top Ten Book Covers by Rob Matthews 21/8/02
Yes, I'm completely nicking Joe Ford's idea here, but I just really like eye-catching book covers and the IMO BBC's Who range is the best-designed book series currently available (narrowly beating those magnificently pulpy Elmore Leonard covers). They've come a long way since the early days when every cover featured a stock photo of whichever Doctor in front of a colourful swirly thing. Admittedly, the person who does them is addicted to the lens flare effect on Photoshop, but I'm pretty fond of that one myself.
Never judge a cover by its book, that's what I say.
Most rubbish BBC cover: The Slow Empire
Most rubbish NA cover: No Future. What's with the sausage roll in Ace's hair and why is Liza Minelli there?
The Top Ten Covers... Of The Target Books by Matthew Harris 25/8/02
Mr Ford pointed out up there, and quite rightly, that many of the covers for the BBC books are things of (say it with me) grace and beauty. But I don't reckon that any of the computer-aided, colour-merged tarts of today would stand up to a thrashing with a Skilleter, or a good hard Pearson. I mean Andrew and Alister of course, ho ho ho. From the old Virgin Target novelisations. Here's my "top" ten. Right there. To see these pictures in full and explicit detail, go to Tim Neal's feast-for-the-eyes website at http://www.personal.leeds.ac.uk/~ecl6nb/OnTarget
10: The Massacre (by John Lucarotti). The 1987 edition. Cover by Tony Masero. The TARDIS apparently being burnt at the stake, and in the foreground stands the Doctor... or is it the Abbot?... or is it the Doctor? Alister Pearson's 1990s edition simply drew two Bill Hartnells, which is boring.
9: The Web Of Fear (by Tel). 1984 version. Cover by Andrew Skilleter. In foreground: Yeti with lights shining out of its eyes. In background: TARDIS, entangled in the titular web. Creepy. Just loses out to the same era and artist's Abominable Snowmen by virtue of happenstance. And the entangled TARDIS bit.
8: Time And The Rani (by Pip 'n' Jane). 1988 edition. There were two, actually, both showing the Tetraps hanging in their cave. One was a painting by Masero, one was a model shot by Chris Capstick. Masero's won out because the Tetraps were upside down in his painting. That is to say, they were the right way up. Oh, forget it. Anyway, they're both great, and give the story a neat sense of mystery which it didn't deserve, quite frankly. Quite frankly, all it deserves is death. Slow, brutal, bloody death.
7: The Curse Of Fenric (by Ian Briggs). 1990. Picture by Alister Pearson. And he called it cluttered. Every single thing in the story (and that's a lot of things) is alluded to one way or another, from the chessboard background to the green glow on Sylv's face. It's not cluttered. It's great. Mind you, Pearson never was satisfied. For example...
6: The Dalek Masterplan Part II: The Mutation Of Time (a ridiculously long title for anything) dates from 1989, when John Peel was writing other people's stories and therefore still had a good rep. Now, this picture (Bill's face in nebula above some shooting star effect that I might recognise if I'd seen the story, with a red Dalek right next to him looking menacing) is one of the best ever. Ever. But he said "Why everyone raves about it I really don't understand... I think it's dreadful". Artistic temperament? Yes. But never mind.
5: The Time Warrior (by Tel and Bob). 1978 dealie. Roy Knipe: famous photographer. It's very simple. It's also very good.
4: Snakedance (by Tel). Skilleter takes the "opportunity to take a symbolic approach" in his own words. Simply put: a snake, curling and curling in a spiral to infinity, attempts to eat a planet. Only thing to spoil it is PD (who wouldn't let anyone draw him, simply because David McAllister did a bad picture of him once) being slotted clumsily into the nifty neon logo they used then. By the way, BBC: if you must reuse an old logo, why not use the visually interesting neon one? You know, instead of one that's basically just the words DOCTOR and WHO in block letters? Huh? Pretty please?
3: Enlightenment (by Barbara Clegg). Skilleter again. A simple representation of the ships sailing into that shiny thing where the guardians are. But-it's-superb. Except for the aforementioned Davison-into-logo shenanegins.
2: Planet Of Fire (by Mr Grimwade). Once again: Skilleter. Tony Ainley's Master merging with Kamelion on a blue backdrop. Moody, effective, and the poles sticking out of Tony's head are very bizarre. Until you read\watch the damn thing. Interesting to note: Kamelion (being as he was on the cover of both this and King's Demons) is the only companion to have a 100% record of being on Target book covers. Yes, he does count. Yes, he does. He does too. Don't argue with me, or by thunder I'll swing for you. Or words to that effect.
1: Ghost Light (by Platty). 1990. Alister Pearson. This one's beyond description. Really. A work of towering genius (although Pearson probably hated it). A picture of McCoy so detailed it really could be a photo (I haven't worked it out yet), a genuinely elegant depiction of Ace (who's appearance on Target covers was seemingly mandatory at the time), a picture of Gabriel Chase that's frankly world-beatingly creepy in its simplicity, and of course that great bit with Light's calculations. Well apart from the "AP" (the incorporation of which into his earlier covers is often ingenious) you can while away months trying to work out what else it's saying. If you want to. Alister Pearson: we are not worthy.
And of course (this is where it becomes plagarism - sorry, Joe) there are some stinkers here also:
[The Giant] Robot from 1975, because of Peter Brookes' conceit of having Tom's head on the O. Not bad in itself, but I don't how how he did it. Alls I know is it looks like someone's trying to shoot him;
The Dinosaur Invasion Of The Dinosaurs, from 1976, because the normally-reliable Chris Achilleos duffs a potenially exciting cover up (by his own admission) by adding the word "KKLAK!". Ouch..
All the earlier Peter Davison novelisations. Come on, Pete, McAllister's picture wasn't so bad that they all have to be photos, was it? I'd make special mention of Arc Of Infinity, for showing the Doctor being threatened by Hedin (doh) but to be frank, I don't think it matters. Sod it, spoil the damn thing. If anyone's around by the end of part three, they're still not going to care one bit.
Top Ten reviewers to watch out for by Joe Ford /9/02
This is a complete cheat from a review I read the other day but I thought I would write this for anyone new joining the site who wants to know just who writes for what and just how good some the reviewers on this site can really be...
10) Stuart Gutteridge
Stuart is one of the very few reviewers who writes for the often ignored BBV audio adventures and should be applauded for that. Because of many of his reviews I have actually purchased some of these adventures and they were just as good as he often says. But more than that Stuart's reviews are thoughtful and concise and if you take a good look at the author list he will review across the board (TV, books, audios) making for a very balanced reviewer.
Watch out for: his capsule reviews of Doctors and companions. Often short, but to the point and with a GREATEST MOMENT.
9) Richard Radcliffe
Who has lots of good things to say about the audios and can be no bad thing! Especially the Colin Baker ones. No seriously, it is so good to have a regular reviewer of the audio adventures so we can see what Big Finish are up to lately. I find it very handy to read his reviews before I buy merchandise as more often than not his reviews match my own. I very much like his scoring at the end of each review.
Watch out for: His 'Caught on Earth' arc reviews... spot on. And his appreciation of the audios.
8) Mike Morris
Dontcha just love his season reviews? So in depth but often so right. I love this guy's reviews because they are so often the complete reverse to mine which is very refreshing! It's always nice to hear about the flip side of the coin. In particular our Peter Davison/Colin Baker opinions differ wildy making for som very intesting paralells. His top tens are often hysterical and his Top Ten Shameful Confessions just has to be one of the most honest things I've read on this site. Extra points for taking the mickey out of me on the odd occasion.
Watch out for: His review of season 22, especially Vengeance on Varos (the one story I almost made him re-consider!)
7) Tim Roll Pickering
Who seems to take an entire era and review it. He's covered all of Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee and is now working his way through Tom Baker. For a comprehensive look at entire era's you can't do better. I especially like how he pulls no punches and his reviews flutter wildly between 1/10's and 10/10's, if he doesn't like something, you'll know.
Watch out for: his re-apraisal of season six, one of the most maligned seasons of Doctor Who ever of which he gives a very good argument for giving the stories 1/10, 10/10, 9/10, 8/10, 9/10 and 10/10 respectively.
6) Rob Matthews
I bow down to Rob Matthews. No matter how hard anybody tries nobody can write an in-depth review quite like him. He quite often uses other sources of material to back up his reviews and quite thoughtfully compares his opinions with others on the site. More often than not he makes me look a stories in a whole new way. I really like his reviews of each of the Doctors because even if he doesn't always like them the best he always finds some nice things to say.
Watch out for: his >review of Destiny of the Daleks. Has any story recieved such a beating? Also his brief dips into the book range are always welcome, particularly his excellent reviews for Verdigris and The Blue Angel.
5) Michael Hickerson
Michael knows what he likes (season eighteen!) and always gives a balanced, well thought out review. He has dipped into all of the eras so it is good to read his reviews if you want to know what's hot and what's not of each Doctor. I am often surprised by the things that he does and doesn't like (liking the sixth Doctor very much but hating nearly all of his stories!). I must quickly mention his wonderful Buffy site of which his reviews there are also quite excellent.
Watch out for: Some harsh reviews during the JNT era notably Battlefield, Earthshock and especially Trial of a Time Lord all of which made for compelling reading
4) Terrance Keenan
One of my favourite book reviewers simply because he can be so nasty about them! Often controversially slating popular books you've gotta love this guy's honesty! And equally as brilliantly he loves a lot of the least popular books (Demontage anyone?). Terrance is the reviewer who shocks me the most. I love it.
Watch out for: His no holding back treatment of City of the Dead, The Shadows of Avalon and especially Unnatural History. Great stuff.
3) Robert Smith?
Yes, yes our beloved editor does get a mention. And why? He very rarely dips into the series with his reviews and when he does it's to make a point (about Robot, for example, or his surprising fondness for The Mutants). He mostly sticks to the books and gives a very honest and thought provoking account of what he reads. It is very rare for him to be happy with a continual series for long, the Benny NA's are easily his favourite books with hardly a bad review amongst the twenty or so books. He never held back when it came to his dislike of the early EDA's (which was great to read, his desperation that hopefully soon a good book would come along!) but he has been much kinder to the recent EDA's liking pretty much all of the recent books bar a few shocking exceptions (Adventuress of Henrietta Street, The Slow Empire).
Watch out for: His review of City of the Dead, The Glass Prison and Alien Bodies and Dead Romance. These are the books he LIKES.
2) Andrew AcCaffrey
Another book reviewer whose revviews of the EDA's I follow quite dilligently. He, like me seems quite impressed with the current range and since his reviews always seem to arrive just after mine it is nice to compare notes. His reviews of the earlier EDA's are also quite fair and although quite honest about how much he doesn't like a book he often finds a few nice things to say about each one. I find that very refreshing.
Watch out for: Any of his reviews from Earthworld onwards providing an optimistic look at the EDA's of late.
1) Finn Clark
Who else could it be but Finn Clark. Who keeps me mercilessly entertained with his frantic and quite often hysterically funny reviews. I like Finn's work especially because he always covers how the TARDIS teams are portrayed and that is one of the things I really want to know before starting a book! Who do I turn to to help me decide which PDA's to buy and skip? TV Zone? Dreamwatch? SFX? Nope, it's Finn who has written reviews for nearly every PDA and almost always gets me intruiged enough to pick it up. I bought Warmonger just to see if he was right about how DIRE it was! Insightful, witty and always well written, his reviews are always top stuff.
Watch out for: the times he really surprised me... Trading Futures (that he hated in the middle of a run of EDA's that he loved), Amorality Tale (almost universally derided but hey Finn loved it!), The Eight Doctors (in which he can't seem to decide what to think!) and The Squire's Crystal (where he actually agreed with me!)
While I probably shouldn't have put this in a top ten way because to be honest I like all these reviewers... thanks guys for providing me with HOURS of entertainment.
Top Ten Stephen Cole EDA moments by Joe Ford 4/9/02
As I have recently discovered the Stephen Cole edited EDA's have been vastly underated. While not always perfect (in fact some of his opus is as far from perfect as you can get!) there was more of a consistent good quality running throughout, particularly towards the end. Here are my favourite moments of that era. They are not all world shaking moments like Compassion turning into a TARDIS or The Third Doctor's death but moments that I felt genuinely pleased to reading the books... be it a funny scene, an emotional hit or a shocking twist.
10) Iris name drops (The Scarlet Empress).
This was my first introduction to the insane world of Iris Wildthyme and like the majority of readers I fell in love with her instantly. Her constant attempts to get close to The Doctor and to get him to admit that he cared for her (if you know what I mean!) are hysterical and very touching. But it is the way she managed to wind up our favourite Time Lord by playing him at his own game, by name dropping adventures HE has had and putting herself into the stories that were most brilliant of all. My personal favourite was her tale about her seven incarnations being taken to Gallifrey in the the Death Zone and having to fight all monsters from her past like Zarbi, Mechanoids and Quarks ("Good job we only got the rubbishy monsters to battle, eh?"). That Paul Margs, what a genius.
9) The Robot (Frontier Worlds).
The number one laugh out loud character in this line! He only gets two scenes and yet makes such an impression. He is sarcastic, states the obvious and takes a joke just a little too far! When the Doctor slaps his forehead in a sudden realisation of a fact the robot then mimicks his actions TWICE but when he slaps his hand to his forehead, there's a bit of a clang. The second time his mocks amazement leads to the Doctor's hysterical response. "Yes. But don't overdo it."
8) Compassion kills Ellis (Frontier Worlds).
Ooh, two showings for Anghelides! The sheer genius of this moment is not that a regular character (and a companion at that!) brutally slaughters a character by stabbing an axe into his forehead, oh no! It's not even the fact that we're all cheering because Ellis was such a nasty little ponce that made Fitz's life hell. No, it's that when Compassion commits the act she actually cracks a joke, the sickest joke I've heard in a while by stating Ellis' horrible saying "Big mistake. Mega mistake." whilst wiping the bloody axe on his buisness suit. Very impressive.
7) Chapter Six (Seeing I)
I believe I have already gone on enough about this marvellous chapter taking through a year in Sam's life. It is mature, simple, elegant, touching and connected with me on so many levels. The fact that it deveops Sam (the most generic character ever to grace a book range) more in one chapter than the ten or so books preceeding it just goes to show the skill and quality of Jon Blum's writing (as Kate Orman told me he wrote the Sam bits).
6) The Krotons! (Alien Bodies)
Whilst I find Alien Bodies to be a vastly overated book this absolutely gem of a moment just won me over with it's sheer verve. In a spectacular scene the Doctor realises that the Daleks have been invited to the auction of his body. Everybody is on tenderhooks as their ships settles down and the doors open. "Exterminate! Exterminate!" is what we were all expecting but in a shameful moment of high comedy the terrifying Krotons slowly (as they were terribly designed and REALLY slow on screen) emerge. The fact that they claim to have dealt with the Daleks on their way just makes it all the more priceless.
5) Time Lord revealed! (The Banquo Legacy).
A stunning book and no doubt but the best bit for me was the revelation as to just who the Time Lord agent was. We all knew this would lead into The Ancestor Cell and that the Doctor would be caught and we had an intruiging number of suspects as to just who the culprit Time Lord was. Needless to say the answer had been pretty obvious (except to me) and came as a suprise of delight. It was clever too. And paved the way for a brilliant last scene. Who ever heard of it being the butler?
4) Gallifrey is gone (The Ancestor Cell)
A grotesquely convoluted book and no mistake but nobody can deny the last few chapter have a real sense of closure and excitement for a better future. The Doctor's final decision to erase his own planet will always be the best shock moment in the whole series.
3) Prison Death (Seeing I)
Kate Orman this time, reminding us why she is so revered. The story of The Doctor stuck in the prison where everybody is NICE is the best examination of his character yet. He has no one to fight, no grand villans to face off against. And he just can't escape. He's stuck in one building for three years. That would be torture for anybody but for a man who delights in travelling to new worlds and times every five minutes it is as bad as death. Two GREAT moments, one comes when The Doctor tries another escape and takes one of his fellow prisoners with him only to get her killed. His stunned reaction left me reeling. The second was his revealing "At last" as an officer finally lays into him and he has a clear enemy to fight. The fact the officer is reprimanded and everybody else is still nice, despite his escape attempts, just pushes The Doctor over the edge. Gripping stuff. And a teddy bear has never disturbed me so much in my life.
2) Brigadier's redemption (The Shadows of
Everybody knows about this bit! The Brigadier, tormented by his wife's unexpected death, finds himself losing the will to live. In the midst of a great battle of interdimensional forces it isn't exactly the best time. During his ground force fight Doris comes to him and tells him it's time to let go. For the first time in the book he wants to live, wants save everybodies life. He heroically rescues an injured private and in the best moment of smybolism I've ever read says "If I got killed... then I couldn't get you home." I cried.
1) The Doctor rapes Compassion (The Fall of
In a top moment of shocking high drama the desperate Doctor fits his new TARDIS, Compassion, with a randomiser to help her elude The Time Lords. He doesn't ask. He just does it. And he pays the price. Compassion goes insane and tries to kill him and Fitz. I had to put the book down to control my breathing. Just stunning on every level.
Top ten special editions by Rob Matthews 6/9/02
Still on a bit of a Star Wars thing at the moment, I was thinking about how much that end celebration sequence adds to the special edition of Return of the Jedi. Yes, yes, I know Doctor Who's not about special effects, but what with the DVD release of a tarted-up Five Doctors, here's my speculation on which other DW stories would benefit from a bit of CGI... you know, in twenty years or something when it's on tap...
(yes, as it happens I do have too much time on my hands today)
1) The Deadly Assassin
Simply pluck out all the actors and put them in front of huge, gothic and alien backgrounds based on that dark green colour scheme. A lot of art nouveau would be my choice, very swirly and overdecorous. Imagine the vast reaches of the lower levels of the Capitol, the swarms of multi-hued Time Lord chapters in a stadium-sized Panopticon. Statues of Omega, Rassilon, the Other knocking about the place. A view of outer Gallifrey from the Doctor's trial room, forests of magenta trees and a flock of fledershrews flitting by. You could greatly improve the Eye of Harmony scene by showing the spires and gantries of the Capitol juddering and falling to bits. And you could work in a few twitching sinews to animate the Master's gnarled face.
2) The Caves of Androzani
The exterior matte shot when the TARDIS lands is actually pretty good already, but you could take out that snapshot of Dakota or wherever it is and create a more alien landscape. Replace the lava beast with... well, anything at all really. A rubber duck would be more effective than that thing. One scene that could certainly stand improvement is when the President falls down the liftshaft. It's like when Morbius fell off that cliff, too slow. The view from Morgus' office could be made more substantial, the way Bespin was in The Empire Strikes Back. I wouldn't make the caves themselves look any more extensive or cavernous, though, 'cause it'd be better for them to contrast with Morgus's wise open spaces. Better to put a load of stalactites and stalagmites in there to represent Jek's tortured personality.
3) Remembrance of the Daleks
"Activate the Omega device!"
-We follow the progress of the Hand of Omega (a swirling ball of energy that resembles a really huge atom) as it darts from the underside of the Dalek ship. The ship shrinks into the distance and as the Hand gains speed, so does Earth.
"Omega device activated"
-The Hand whips up a timewarp and leaps through it
"Plotting course to home planet Skaro"
-The Hand zips through the swirling colours of the time vortex
"Now, the Daleks shall become the Lords of Time!"
"Entering Skaro Time zone"
-We see silent empty space. Suddenly reality seems to ripple at the centre then tear open, and the Hand bursts out of the implicate. We follow it as a big red planet whips past us almost too quickly to see. Then we hold back and watch as the ball of energy zooms towards Skaro's sun. A couple of moments later, a little whoomph from the star shows that it's hit home.
"(Technical stuff about, neutrino release, core collapse etc)"
-We see things bubbling up around the device inside the heart of Skaro's sun (obviously we're wearing our sunshades)
"Danger! Instability!"...."Home planet Skaro about to vaporise"
The Omega device nips off to our side as the sun heaves a little, causing Skaro (entirely unscientifically I expect) to shift a little in space, as if potted lightly by a a pool cue. Then WHAM, light fills the screen.
4) Frontier in Space
Well, virtually all the special effects shots of spaceships could be redone easily. They don't even involve actors, and this story really wants to be an impressive space opera. Backgrounds of futuristic buildings could be added to the Earth scenes that look like they were filmed outside a defunct leisure centre in Fulham. That giant blancmange/bedsheet creature on the Ogron planet could also be replaced with something a bit more menacing too.
5) Tomb of the Cybermen
Not many changes needed here - just add vast honeycombs of cyber tombs into the background, so it looks like there are thousands of them asleep and not just twelve. Alternatively - or is that additionally? -, you could add point-of-view shots into Attack of the Cybermen showing much the same thing.
6) Planet of the Daleks
If there's one thing CGI's come in handy for it's creating giant hordes of identical creatures - you know, Gungans, droids, bugs, spiders, clone armies, creepy things from Lord of the Rings. So creating a dormant army of pepperpots to replace those misshapen clunk-o-matic toys ought to be a cakewalk. And then there's that Spiridonian jungle, made out of five rubber plants. It could be made really lush and alien, and given a hint of wildlife in the form of, say, luminous bees and butterfly-winged centipedes.
7) The Daleks
As I mentioned when I reviewed it, this one's is actually remarkably effective, managing to create a sense of scale through well-designed visuals and sound effects (such as the lift descending in episode 1). So just replace the wonky-perspective cardboard backdrops (namely the ones in the corridors, and those rather flat-looking Daleks in the control room) with more convincing CG ones. Alternatively, if you were feeling a great deal more ambitious, you could add some new actors into the Thal ranks (the way Boba Fett was made to lurk in the background in A New Hope) and have monstrous Dalek mutants leaping out of their travel machines and clutching onto their faces and backs in the final battle a la Alien. Then it wouldn't seem so anticlimactic.
8) The Invisible Enemy
The spaceship moving through the asteroid field and being attacked by the swarm. The view from Michael Sheard's window on that moon. The spaceship docking and being shimmied underground. The Doctor's innards. This was an impressively large-scale story (er, even the miniaturisation bits), and would benefit more than many others from suitably impressive visuals. The swarm leader in particular could be blotted out and replaced with something more impressive, like that rotund Jabba chap in the fur coat was for ep 4.
9) The Ark in Space
Same thing, really. CGI Wirrnnn (or whatever they're called). A few hundred additional galleries of frozen humans. Something veined and pulsating to replace that green bubble wrap.
10) Planet of the Spiders
No, not the the tacky arachnids. Not even the ludicrous backdrops on Metebelis III. What really needs changing about this story is the regeneration scene. When you consider how effective the Hartnell/Troughton one was, the simple dissolve we get here is inexcusably dull.
Top Ten JNT era moments by Joe Ford /9/02
10) Confusion! (Castrovalva)
Such a marvellous lyrical story deserved an ending as good as this. Once the wonderful Portreeve has been exposed as the evil Master the whole world of Castrovalva finally folds in on itself almost threatening to consume our heroes. The newly regenerated Doctor, Tegan, Adric and Nyssa rush through the streets desperate for an escape. It's so beautifully directed by Fiona Cumming with the brilliant Micheal Sheard's "There is nothing but confusion in my eyes!" saying everything we need to know without actually seeing a thing. The echoing screams and jigsaw effects are just great. We were all worried that the show would sink in its new season... this ending, exciting and thoughtful (with the Master getting a really nasty fate this time!) proves us wrong. It was going to be a good year.
9) Suicide! (Greatest Show in the Galaxy)
For a show full of surreal touches and magical moments it seems odd that I would pick this but it just gives me goosebumps every time I watch it. The Chief Clown's abuse and Bellboy's sudden spirit to fight back is wonderful but I genuinely thought he was going to turn his robotic clowns on the enemy. It shocked me no end to realise he meant he genuinely couldn't go on to do work he hates and draws them towards himself instead. The imagery is great... the shadowy clowns slowly coming to life, closing in on him with nowhere to escape and then the sudden pan over to the Chief Clown proving the old saying 'seeing nothing means more'. His ivy smile is just the icing on the cake.
8) Massacre! (The Five Doctors)
Even my mum thought this bit was great! Truly one of the best action set pieces in the shows entire history and directed by JNT himself! Arms lopping off, heads too, one Cyberman even throws up! Eugh! It's all enhanced by the chosen location, an atmospheric slate quarry and introduces the faster than light Raston Warrior Robot. Whether its pumping them full off arrows or just chopping their heads of this is one mean mamma that you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley!
7) Nyssa departs (Terminus)
Of all the leaving scenes JNT did this one seemed the most genuine. It struck a real chord in me because Sarah Sutton is one of my favourite things about the Davison so to see her go is heartbreaking. The fact that her decision ties up with her character works superbly and the reactions of the Doctor and Tegan seem very genuine. Tegan just falls silent and begs her not to go and the Doctor tells her how brave he thinks she is after shes made up her mind. By the final shot of Tegan and Nyssa hugging and crying I'm afraid I was a gonna too... pass me the Kleenex! This is an example of understated emotion the show doesn't do too often but it works perfectly here.
6) The Glass Dalek (Revelation of the Daleks)
How sick, morbid and twisted is it to see a man in decaying, mutilated remains fitted inside a Dalek shell and being transformed. The fact that it is the father of a character we have been following for half the story just adds to the perversion. Truly if you were to think of a time when the evil of the Daleks was best protrayed this has to be the prime contender. The scene is dramatic and moody with the actors perfectly acquited, the rising music makes it all the scarier and the dialogue ("It is vital that the Daleks are supreme in all things!" "Kill me child, kill me!") is delicious. The end where Natasha shoots him to pieces looks glorious but its the emotional core that gives it its power.
5) Special Weapons! (Rememberance of the Daleks)
Another wow coool moment! Let's be honest, seeing the Daleks wobbling around on the cobbled streets of London is hardly an awe-inspiring sight even when blowing themselves to pieces. But when the greased up Special Weapons Dalek glides into view which is just a HUGE gun blowing up three Daleks at a time we are blown away too! Simply put... they made the Daleks cool again. Enough said.
4) The Two Doctors (The Two Doctors)
Saint Patrick and saint Colin, together at last! Any scene with them together is instantly magical taking an instant dislike to each other! I still can't get over the thought of someone meeting themselves and hating themselves! Tee hee! Of course it's battle of the egos all over again and with such gems as "I've come a long way for you!" "Naturally, don't expect any thanks" and "The Universe should be big enough for both of us... just!" JNT said he adored the chemistry between these two and although their time together is short it's certainly very memorable. My two favourite Doctors together. Wonderful.
3) Attacked! (Curse of Fenric)
You know what I mean, that marvellous bit where the Haemovores attack en masse. It is one of those moments where Dr Who transcends the small screen and provides a moment worthy of a movie. It's all complicated camera angles, unexpected attacks and pandomonium. It's brilliantly exciting and advances the plot in a big way. I truly think the story would lose a lot of its power without this incredible set piece. Ace struggling with two Haemovores is so scary it hurts and Sorin to the rescue (with real bullet holes being pumped in!) is great. It's five minutes of non stop madness and I love it to pieces.
2) "Did you call him the Doctor?" (Trial of a Time
Trust Robert Holmes to transcend the whole Trial to a new level and turn EVERYTHING we have seen on its head. Chris Clough's direction is fab, his shot of Colin with a dark shadow across his face as the Master tells him that the Valeyard is a darker version of himself is brilliantly done. Colin's astonished, terrified reaction is one of the most dramatic, terrifying moments in the whole series. This one sent shivers right down my spine.
1) Carnage! (Caves of Androzani)
Althought this story is overated, the ending most certainly isn't. Its non stop violence as all the male characters are cut down one by one. Some are well deserved cheer-worthy deaths (Morgus, Stotz) others are tragic (Sharaz Jek). But the piece de resistance is the Doctor who finally comes to the end of his fifth life desperately trying to save his friend. The edge of your seat rush back to the TARDIS is Doctor Who at its awe-inspiring best and the regeration is easily the best ever. When Colin sits up "Three I's in one breath, you must be a rather an egotistical young lady!" I cheer every time. Utterly perfect.
The Ten Best Video and DVD Covers by Mike Morris 13/9/02
Hmm, you see, recently we've covered everything else. The best book covers. The best Target covers. Fine and worthy lists, all of them. But damn you people, I won't have the video covers being neglected! The amazing work of a core of gifted artists, and, er, various anonymous photo-montage people at the BBC! So this list now completes the Guide's recent attempts to rate all the different genres of cover.
Now, some of you may notice that DVD covers don't feature heavily (or, indeed, at all) on the list, and this is because they are both unimaginative and featureless and damn ugly, all at the same time, a bit like Milton Keynes or 1950's housing schemes. In a word, minging. I just included them in the title so no-one would have to go through the torture of ranking the damn things. You're welcome, completists out there.
And anyway, here we go...
10. Horror of Fang Rock. Ah, it's a montage one to begin with. At about the same time as the diamond logo was superseded by the Pertwee (sorry, McGann) logo, BBC Enterprises (sorry, Worldwide) started using photo-montages instead of illustrations. This was a sad day, as although the montaged covers actually look better on the whole, they're not as much fun. Anyway, Horror Of Fang Rock is one of the better ones, with a ghostly blueness thing going on and a really cool photo of Tom. Very nice indeed.
9. The Caves of Androzani. Er, well actually I only saw this once, in a second-hand shop, and for some bizarre reason I didn't buy it because I had the story taped off UK Gold. Six months later my VCR shredded said tape, just to teach me not to avoid my responsibilities as a collector. Collector? Ugh, I feel like comic-book guy from the Simpsons (but I don't look like him. Honest). Anyway, I can't remember much about this cover except that there was lots of stuff happening on the cover, and it was very nice. And looked kind of like The Twin Dilemma, but better.
8. Nightmare of Eden. Another montage, but the last in this list. Sadly, we don't get credits with the montage system, so I've got no idea who utilised the myriad tricks of Adobe Photoshop (presumably - looks a bit like the "solarize" filter to me) to actually make a Mandrel look bloody terrifying. Nice layout, nice dank greenness, and overall it's a really strong and serious realisation of a simple concept. Just like the story, then.
7. The Stones of Blood. The Key to Time videos all have very strong covers generally, except for the last two which are kind of dull. Still, let's hear it for Andrew Skilleter, one of the two Kings of Doctor Who artwork! This is just about the best of the Key to Time bunch, with the Cailleach (which, by the way, comes from Irish mythology and is pronounced incorrectly right through the story... it's pronounced kuh-lok, with the emphasis on the second syllable... oh, never mind) dominating a very dark cover. It'd be higher except that Romana looks a bit unwell.
6. Logopolis. Skilleter again, showing his gift for composition. The artwork's not the best, but it's such a brilliant layout! The Watcher at the bottom, with a white line-thing emanating from him and splitting the cover in two, with a picture of the Doctor on one side and the Master on the other, and Logopolis beneath them and the universe (no less) in the corner. Fantastic!
5. Kinda. Davison, Panna, the chimes, and the Mara re-imagined as an actual snake rather than an unconvincing prop. The Doctor's face is half in shadow, which makes him look rather dashing. Panna's beautifully drawn too. Colin Howard is, of course, the other king of Who artwork, and his first appearance in our top ten is in a tellingly high position. He might also have made it with his Snakedance cover, which has an amazing picture of Davison, but is blighted by the inclusion of two random women wearing Nyssa and Tegan's costumes.
4. Arc of Infinity. Absolutely lovely, and drawn by some punter called Pete Wallbank. Despite the obvious handicaps (not being called Andrew Skilleter or Colin Howard, and the additional problem that Photoshop hadn't been invented) he did a great job, producing a very unusual cover with a goigous (you know, goigous. Like Mrs H. Oh, never mind.) geometric thingy happening. Basically it's the Doctor and Omega, distorted by a 45-degree square. Very clever. Very interesting. Might therefore be sued for creating an entirely false impression of the story itself.
3. Survival. A sort of montage of more or less everything that pops up in the story, arranged to no apparent logic. Doesn't matter; Anthony Ainley is so perfectly drawn he could almost be photographed, we've got Sylvester McCoy brandishing a rock, we've got a Cheetah person, we've got the planet and we've got a dark brown shading over everything. This might have been the winner, except that the drawing of Ace isn't that good. Still fantastic though.
2. Ghost Light. Generally, Colin Howard draws portraits better than Andrew Skilleter, but doesn't quite have the same talent for layout. This one's a cracker, though; Wonderful portraits of Ace and the Doctor, that husk with the big eyes, and some other stuff too. There's a great dark blue thing going on as well. Like most of Colin's covers it's very busy, but given that it's for Ghost Light that's probably quite appropriate. And Ace and the Doctor leap out at you, tying the whole thing together. The Curse of Fenric is a really good cover too, except that the church and the road sign are a bit crap; maybe Colin saved his best work for Season 26. So he must be fuming at that crappy montage cover for Battlefield.
1. The Deadly Assassin. And the winner between what was always going to be a Colin Howard/Andrew Skilleter gladiatorial contest (Gladiatorial? Well, the pen is mightier than the sword and all that - although I still wouldn't fancy Shakespeare in a fight against Zorro) is... Skilleter. Even if he did bring out a silly book called Blacklight, he's the tops. For this. A big picture of Tom against a mottled green background, the Master in the top right corner, and then that triangular telescopic-sight graphic framing everything. Simple. Stunning. Not only is it perfectly drawn, but it actually evokes the story itself.
Ah, remember that? Artistically drawn covers? Those were the days eh? Except for the NA's, obviously. And that cover of Silver Nemesis. Now I've never seen metallic snot, but if it exists I know just what it looks like...
Ten Most Controversial Stories by Terrence Keenan 19/9/02
Okay, these are the big ones. Ten stories (in release order) that have generated more debate in fandom at the time of their release. For better or worse, whether loved or hated -- or both -- these stories are still capable of generating debate passion and arguments to this day.
Ten Books/Ideas that have suffered from Poor Marketing by John Velazquez 6/10/02
Basically, this will be a bit of bitching about back cover blurbs, with the occasional gripe about a book’s release date thrown in to prove that I’m not completely single-minded. There are probably other (possibly better) examples of the sort of thing I’m talking about, but I’m relatively new to Who fiction – and a lot of this stuff is hard to find now! Please note that I am not necessarily claiming that the books/ideas on this list are good ones (well, for the most part, I am, actually, but that’s a whole other can of slimy things). I am claiming that, under other circumstances the said books/ideas might have a better rap sheet among fans.
In short, a tricky novel, made trickier by its release date (and that’s not counting the whole “should this really have been Benny’s second novel” debate...).
So, it may not have been the brightest idea to cap off such a run of stories with a novel which a) deliberately flaunts expected conventions of cause and effect (i.e. Sam’s mysterious planet hopping in the novel’s latter half), and b) is yet another planet-scale disaster flick (in fact, even more so!), and c) offers the author’s own uncompromising and unflattering take on a pair of leads whom he clearly regards as misconceived, when the reading public was crying out for straightforward heroes, AND d) deals with the problem of secondary characters (Eye of Heaven notwithstanding, never really the author’s forte) by simply not bothering to include any (an unusual solution, if nothing else)...
It must have seemed less like a work of inspiration, and more like the last nail in the coffin of Doctor Who.
Mea culpa, really, more than anyone else’s. But I needed one more item to bring the list up to ten, so I just thought I’d mention it.
And that, folks, brings the total up to nine. Which leaves but one more...
Granted, it probably helps that I came to the BBC books only a few months ago, and Interference was one of the first that I read. Thus, as I speed read through as many of the preceding novels as I could find, I knew that there was light at the end of the tunnel...
One of these days, I’ll elaborate in greater detail on why I think she’s worth giving a second chance. But the question at hand is, why I think much of the fandom’s loathing of her comes from a misunderstanding of her potential appeal on the part of... oh, dash it all, is Steve Cole the guilty party here?
The answer is that this wonderfully complex, flawed, and confused mess of a human being was packaged as a conventional companion, at the start of a line of books that was claiming a desire to leave behind the darker aspects of the Virgin NAs, and get back to the good, old-fashioned basics of Doctor Who. And so, those NA haters looking forward to a new, say, Sarah Jane Smith to imagine themselves as (work with me here – for what else was a companion in the television program, but an audience identification figure), instead got New Ace (widely characterised, but not by me, as a “space bitch”), without the weapon proficiency to make her a practical asset. Not what traditional companions are supposed to be, is it? And, those NA lovers looking for another superhuman companion to admire from afar (say, Bernice Summerfield), instead got... New Ace (once more, “space bitch”), without the weapon proficiency to at least make her a practical asset.
Thus, Sam Jones was a character guaranteed to please no one, and anger everyone. The solution? Don’t package her as an audience identification figure! Don’t try to generate audience appeal – just let her run wild! Jim Mortimore figured this out – other authors may have seen it too, perhaps even Steve Cole saw it (after all, how else did Beltempest get published?), but only Mortimore has so fragrantly put this understanding on display... The Sam of Beltempest may not be a much of a companion in the traditional sense, but she’s a fascinating character to watch in motion! And all the more so, for being pretty well the only companion in the program’s history (that I’ve encountered, at least), to go stark raving mad, through no one’s fault other than her own.
Top Ten Episodes by Stephen Atkins 9/10/02
Believe it or not, Tom Baker is not my fave Doctor, despite having half the top ten list and 4 just missing out. (Colin Baker is my fave).
Ten Saving Graces (and two dismal failures) by Matthew Harris 21/10/02
Hey, every cloud has a silver lining. Even a cloud as huge and depressing as Time And The Rani. So I've had a look at some of the least popular stories (alright, I'm bluffing with The Dominators) and found some good bits among the bad. Although I had to give up the search with one of them. What, you want me to keep watching it and go mad?
The Dominators: the Quarks. Admit it, they're quite cool. Some of the older fans I've met admit to sticking Weetabix boxes on their arms and running around pretending to be them. When they were kids, obviously.
The Mutants: Effort. If it had come in season 7, it might have worked better. But it happened slap-bang in the middle of the series' "You've got terrible ratings, you imbeciles! Now you're a kid's show so act like one, goddammit!" remit. Not to mention inside a six-episode gap in the season. So instead of being a biting satire, it comes across as being a cross between a B-movie and an Afterschool Theatre production about racial intolerance. Still, it tries, poor thing.
The Time Monster: Well, there's the monologue about the hermit, for one. Then there's Kronos itself. No, really, I like the look of Kronos. Big flappy bird: can't beat that. And the direction very nearly pulls off the trick of making it look non-crap, until the closing Attack-Atlantis sequence, where there was really no way not to show the strings. Still, nice try (again).
Underworld: The concept. Jason and the Argonauts in space is a good concept, and the whole Time Lords\Minyan Gods thing is neat (as long as you don't go overboard with the God allegories). Okay, so the money had run out, or was being saved for Invasion of Time at any rate. Alright, they couldn't afford good\decent\vaguely socially acceptable actors (whoever it was playing "Farley's" Rask was so bad he brings me out in a cold sweat just to think about it), or even the ability to film in a cave (there are plenty of caves around. Come to Cornwall, we must have thousands. It's not that damn expensive, is it?). But Greek Myths in space? I like it.
The Power Of Kroll: Other than the great-for-some-reason Phillip Madoc and John Abineri (who is so good I genuinely feel sorry for him)? It's hillarious! Oh, and Kroll himself doesn't look so bad. He's just used badly.
Time-Flight: Captain Stapley. I love Captain Stapley. I think he's great. Him and his crew. I don't know, I just think they're great.
The Twin Dilemma: God knows.
Mindwarp: Brian Blessed. He's just so much fun to watch! It's great!
Time and the Rani: Andrew Morgan gallantly manages to direct this huge ball of crap in a manner befitting something much better. Also, there's evidence of Pip 'n' Jane's prowess when it came to cliffhangers. Vervoids had good cliffhangers. Mark O' The Rani had a decent one. And there's three good 'uns here, too. Mel trapped in a CGI bubble, Doctor confronted by a load of fluffy and oddly cute three-eyed bat bloke things, Doctor being zapped\giant brain\everyone suddenly in a World Of Shit (for more lucid description of this cliffhanger and indeed of this story, Saving Graces and all) check out the review by David Massingham.
Delta and the Bannermen: Er. Well, some people seem to like it, for some reason. Ask them, because I quite honestly don't have a clue.
Silver Nemesis: The boy Clarke shows promise. No, really. Not as an SF writer, as a comic writer. No, really. I thought the bits with Mrs Hackensack\Remington (who is now sadly dead) were actually quite funny. Totally inappropriate, poorly placed, utterly interminable and, in the context of an SF story, terribly irritating - but quite funny, on their own. He might have a future in writing as a sort of bastard love-child of Tom Sharpe and Tim Conte (you know, the decent Pratchett-like bloke who always comes up with a horrid, but horrid, pun for his book titles - "Djinn Rummy" is one of them. I may have got the name wrong. In fact, I'm almost certain I have. Anyone can help out, tell me. Or Dr Smith?. Of course, there's a chance Dr Smith? knows who I mean already, or that I've actually got it right, and so you're not reading this at all, in which case I may as well just shut up right now)
Battlefield: I think I'm alone here, but I enjoyed this. There's some good set-pieces, it has the Brigadier in it, there's some wonderful lines for Sylv and Soph, the Brigadier's in it, it's got a great performance from McCoy, some excellent cliffhangers, Jean Marsh is brilliant and it has the Brigadier. It doesn't make a lick of sense, but you ought to be able to find solace in at least one aspect of that list. Unless you're so damn cynical and bitter that you're predisposed to hate everything, in which case you probably ought to be working for one of the major national newspapers, if you aren't already. You can even quote me and call me a reference.
Top Ten DWM Doctor Comic Strips by Richard Radcliffe 28/0/02
The Comic Strip has been going longer than the TV series ever did. It's been going in DWM since 1979. A huge amount of stories have been told, some extremely good, others a waste of space. It's the cream that I will focus on in this Top Ten, and quite a hard choice it was too.
A friend, EZ, recently loaned me all his old DWMs. He collected them up to 162, losing interest just shortly after the TV series was not renewed. I had collected the earlier issues too, but didn't possess them anymore. My second stint at collecting started in the early 200s. I got quite a few back issues (back to 173 and the Mark of Mandragora Graphic Novel it turns out), and hey presto - the complete set! Bonus prizes were lots of very interesting articles in DWM.
So this isn't some survey based on a few of DWM Strips. I've read them all, I happen to like them quite a lot too. In these days of mass Who Merchandise (seems to have gone off a bit recently with only 1 BBC Book a month though) it's quite easy to forget the mass of original fiction and art in many fans' attics (or pride of place in bedside cabinet like me!). Thus I hope this list will persuade fans to look at the DWM Comic Strip again - there's some outstanding material in there.
10. End of the Line - DWM 54-55. Parkhouse/Gibbons. A raw violent 4th Doctor story, yet laced with dark humour. The emergence of Steve Parkhouse as a brilliant writer.
8. The Curse of the Scarab - DWM 228-230. Barnes/Geraghty. When DWM decided to do past Doctor stories they were not that great, except this 5th Dr/Peri tale, which is exceptional
8. The Fallen - DWM 273-276. Gray/Geraghty/Smith. A worthy successor to the TV Movie with the 8th Doctor less than pleased to see Grace again.
6. Cuckoo - DWM 208-210. Abnett/Ridgway. A wonderfully gothic horror setting for the 7th Dr, Ace and Benny. Sleepy Hollow meets DW superbly.
6. The Tides of Time - DWM 61-67. Parkhouse/Gibbons. The abiding epic of the Comic Strips with the 5th Doctor. Broadsweeping, surreal and riveting.
5. Claws of the Klathi - DWM 136-138. Collins/Hopgood/Hine. A superb traditional story with the 7th Doctor investigating strange goings on around the Victorian Great Exhibition.
4. Evening's Empire - DWM 180 & CCAS93. Cartmel/Piers-Rayner. We thought it was lost, but Classic Comics picked it up. Adult, imaginative tale with the 7th Doctor and Ace.
3. The Voyager - DWM 90-94. Parkhouse/Ridgway. A superbly imaginative tale where nothing is as it seems. The best depiction of the 6th Dr until the Audios. The best artwork of any comic.
2. Fellow Travellers - DWM 164-166. Cartmel/Ranson. The first Cartmel epic, and still his best. Dark, mysterious 7th Dr and driven, emotive Ace.
1. Stars Fell on Stockbridge - DWM 68-69. Parkhouse/Gibbons. Maybe Tides of Time had whetted the appetite, but this remains Number 1 for me. Lovely tale about Max Edison, Stockbridge Eccentric and Companion of the 5th Doctor no less!
A few others got pretty close, so deserve a mention here:- Iron Legion, Time Bomb, Ravens, Ground Zero, Tooth and Claw, Children of the Revolution.
I also haven't included 1-off strips - but here's the best Ten of these:- Memorial (DWM 191), The Spider God (52), Time and Time Again (207), Beautiful Freak (304), Stairway to Heaven (156), The Neutron Knights (60), Keepsake (140), By Hook or By Crook (256), Bringer of Darkness (SS93), Happy Deathday (272). Only Memorial would get into the Above Top Ten though.
Top Ten DWM Comic Strip Quality Contributions by Richard Radcliffe 2/11/02
The DWM comic strip seems to have just as many contributors as any other medium of DW. Considering that this strip has been going strong since 1979 (23 years to date) it's not surprising. TV stories have many contributors - director, writer, producer, set design being arguably the big 4. Books more often than not have just 1. But Comic Strips have 2 distinct talents involved - the Writer and the Artist. When these 2 combine well, the result is often a brilliant DW tale.
When considering this list I didn't want to be biased for writers, or for artists - it's a partnership. Thus 5 of each will be given - how diplomatic of me. A few names were written in straightaway - artists and writers who have contributed vast amounts to this medium. Then there's the rest. Talents who did just 1-2 strips just couldn't be included. The likes of Arthur Ranson, Kev Hopgood, Mike MacMahon, Richard Piers-Raynor, Mike Collins, Grant Morrison and Jamie Delano dazzled us briefly - but they just weren't around long enough.
The rest of the list would be gleaned from the semi-regulars then. Dan Abnett, Paul Cornell, Simon Furman, Mills and Wagner, David Lloyd and Adrian Salmon were pretty close - they all contributed well consistently. But these lists must be restricted to Ten, so here goes:-
10 Andrew Cartmel - The final script writer for TV Who just about scraped in thanks to his 3 excellent strips Fellow Travellers, Ravens and Evening's Empire. Moody, atmospheric - wonderful stories that had an epic quality about them.
9 Steve Dillon - I wanted to include 1 artist and 1 writer from the additional strip of DWM. Dillon just about shaded it over David Lloyd, I just thought he was a better artist. Best Examples - Abslom Daak, Throwback, Stolen TARDIS.
8 Lee Sullivan - Making quite a name for himself on the Web these days, Sullivan has contributed to the Strip since 1991. Impressive were his Dalek Stories. Better were Planet of the Dead, Mark of Mandragora.
7 Steve Moore - The writer of the majority of the additional strips has to be included. Graduated to the main strip. Creator of Abslom Daak, Kroton. His use of DW mythology has hardly been rivalled since. Best examples:- Abslom Daak, Throwback, Spider God.
6 Alan Barnes - After cutting his teeth on the Past Doctor Adventures, he fully established (with Martin Geraghty) the 8th Doctor. Has shown his adeptness with this character with his recent Audios. Experimented too with Cybermen strip. Top ones:- Curse of the Scarab, Tooth and Claw, Endgame.
5 Martin Geraghty - Began on the Past Doctor stories, he was instrumental (with R Smith) in establishing the 8th Doctor. With little to go on he became the definitive artist for this Doctor. With the onset of Colour he became even better. Best strips:- Curse of the Scarab, Tooth and Claw, Ophidius.
4 Warwick Scott Gray - Slowly becoming the most prolific writer of the lot. His first strip was back in 1993. Written for lots of Doctors, but the 8th remains his greatest, especially once the Strip turned Colour with issue 300. Warwick, Scott - I suspect they are the same person - I will treat them as such. Best:- Ground Zero, Fallen, Way of All Flesh.
3 Dave Gibbons - The 1st artist for DWM Main strip, and many would say the best. His art established DWM strip as the best there had been so far in DW. The 4th and 5th Doctors are his, and only 1 artist has bettered him. Best examples:- Iron Legion, End of the Line, Tides of Time.
2 Steve Parkhouse - The golden era of the strip was the Parkhouse years (1981-1985). He wrote everything during that era. The 5th Doctor was better than ever, the 6th Doctor equally so. Benefitted massively from having the 2 best artists on board (Gibbons and Ridgway), but the best writer of DWM Comic Strips by far. Classics:- Tides of Time, ,a href=csstarf.htm>Stars Fell on Stockbridge, Voyager.
1 John Ridgway - The greatest contributor to the comics, just! He has drawn the most, he's the most detailed, he brings an epic quality to virtually everything. Shepherding the 6th Doctor on his entire excellent strip run, drawing some of the best 7th Doctor stories. His artwork spans 10 years (1984 - 1994) of the strip. He always made the story better, because it looked so good. Countless great examples, but if I were to pick 3:- Voyager, Memorial, Cuckoo.
The DWM strip continues apace. Colour has made it even better. The best new Who, probably!
Top Twenty Quotes by Terrence Keenan 8/1/03
These are simply my personal favorites, in no particular order:
Top Twenty Television serials by Terrence Keenan 21/1/03
This is one I've put off for a while. But, the decisions have been made, the votes tallied and here we have them starting from twenty:
20: Carnival of Monsters
19: The Time Warrior
18: The War Games
17: The Androids of Tara
16: The Ribos Operation
15: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
14: Revelation of the Daleks
13: Genesis of the Daleks
12: The Caves of Androzani
11: Spearhead from Space
9: The Face of Evil
8: The Ark in Space
7: Horror of Fang Rock
6: The Talons of Weng Chiang
5: The Deadly Assassin
3: The Robots of Death
2: The Seeds of Doom
1: City of Death
and the bottom of the barrel
9: Arc of Infinity
8: Silver Nemesis
7: Time and the Rani
6: Delta and the Bannermen
5: The Twin Dilemma
1: The Curse of Fenric
My Top Ten Series Cliffhangers by James Aanensen
It's difficult to plave these in any particular order based on any
number of factors including production, effectiveness and general cohesion
to the plot, so I'll go with effectiveness and impact on the viewer. I try
to imagine and in some cases remember what it was like seeing these
cliffhangers without knowing what happens in the next episode.
Top Ten Blatant Retcons by Andrew Wixon
10. The Doctor thinks smoking is 'very bad for you'! (Obviously he's
one of those sanctimonious ex-smokers, as he carries a pipe in An Unearthly Child.)
9. The Doctor can play the harp! (Clearly he has lessons between The Romans and The Five Doctors.)
8. The Doctor 'isn't a medical doctor'! (Despite getting his medical
degree under Lister in 1888, according to The
7. Guns do work in the TARDIS! (This would be news to Andred.)
6. Kronos destroyed Atlantis! (This would be news to Azal.)
5. The freighter wiped out the dinosaurs! (This would be news to the
Silurians, who seemed pretty certain it was the Moon.)
4. The TARDIS exterior is invulnerable to any outside force! (Except
those pesky Sensorite guns, obviously...)
3. Time Lords can die of old age! (Not according to The War Games.)
2. Davros created the Daleks, who used to be called Kaleds! (None of
this was the case in the original Dalek story.)
1. He's half human! (Not in the BBC TV series he wasn't!)
Top Ten best Doctor Who authors by Joe Ford
I love Doctor Who books, I can't think of anything else I get
THAT excited about having every month. Of course there have been some
rough patches here and there but overall the Doctor Who book
universe is full of magic and wonder, capturing the joy and adventure of
the series and stretching it into the media. I learnt so much about prose,
characterisation, plot structure and twists just by reading these books.
And here are my favourite writers, the ones who never let me down, the
ones who I would love to thank for opening my mind that little bit more...
10) Paul Cornell.
9) Jim Mortimore.
8) Dave Stone.
7) Johnathon Morris.
6) Lloyd Rose.
5) Paul Margs.
4) Lance Parkin.
3) Steve Lyons.
2) Kate Orman (and at times Jon Blum).
1) Justin Richards.
I just wanna say thanks guys, your books have been a real inspiration
My Top Forty Stories (part one) by Rob Matthews
Well, you know. Fortieth anniversary, I thought I'd list my forty
favourite stories out of them wot I know. And then attempt haphazardly to
rank them. I ended up writing so much I'm going to mercifully submit this
in two parts : - )
39. The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
37. The Two Doctors
36. Christmas on a Rational Planet
35. Heart of TARDIS
34. The Seeds of Doom
33. The Dalek Masterplan
32. The Happiness Patrol
31. Dead Romance
30. The One Doctor
29. The Talons of Weng Chiang
28. The Blue Angel
27. The Stones of Blood
25. The Dead Planet/The Daleks
23. The Also People
21. The War Games
Phew. So there. And we'll be back with the final countdown right after
My top forty stories (part 2) by Rob Matthews
20. Warriors Gate
19. Resurrection of the Daleks
18. Full Circle
17. Love and War
16. Genesis of the Daleks
15. Alien Bodies
14. Spare Parts
13. Eye of Heaven
12. The Turing Test
11. The Ribos Operation
10. The Caves of Androzani
I have to agree that this has to take the cake because of the impact it must have had in 1963. You'd be like "what the...!!!!". You'd spend a week wondering what the hell was going to happen and what the hell that thing was. This truly has to be a moment that is a foundation stone of Doctor Who's ongoing success. In 1963, there hadn't been much else like it.
On a par with Dalek Invasion Of Earth for the shocking sight of aliens roaming familiar streets. Captain Turner's exclamation "It's the Cybermen, hundreds of them, coming up out of the sewers" and Isobel's reaction make this a truly shocking cliffhanger especially with the shots of the Cybermen massing in the streets of London.
Many may not agree, but this is a personal favourite. I grew up on Tom Baker and saw this for the first time at the age of eight. (Here in Australia, the ABC had an obsession with showing Baker's first four seasons and nothing else) To say that this scared me half to death at the time is an understatement. Tom's delivery is ice cold "I've locked it in..... with us!".
Again, another I saw when quite young and yes it scared me witless. Simply the thought of what was to come and what the "contest" was that Fenric/Judson referred to was enough to do a job on me. Sylvester's reaction is supreme.
An all time favourite, I have to include it. Theres not much I can say that hasn't already been said, apart from it being one cliffhanger that even after many viewings and knowing what happens, it still gets the adrenalin pumping (yes I'm a true Who freak!). I try and imagine the orginal impact it must have had. Unfortunately, I saw it for the first time on video.
Again, many may disagree, but I love it simply for Pertwee's coolness and also the sheer insanity of Carrington. John Abineri delivers "I'm sorry Doctor, it's my moral duty" with utter brilliance. The key impact of this is not what happens next (it's obvious the Doctor will not get shot, even on the first viewing), but that it was unexpected and shows that Carrington is beyond help.
The reconstructed version is excellent to help realise what it was originally like. Again, the intended original impact is what makes it good. A Dalek production line in a story introducing the first new Doctor. In my opinion, a brilliant piece of scripting and production, given the popularity at the time of the Daleks and the risk and of changing the lead role.
In a story containing no less than three or four great cliffhangers, this is the most ominous and scary of them all. I only wish I could have seen the original version. "The battle of the giants". The weed in the pipeline is truly horrific given what had happened earlier to Van Lutyens in the impeller shaft.
Many will debate this, but this lead into the second part of the trial for me shows that there is more to this Valeyard than meets the eye (certainly on the original viewing of course). You are left thinking that it may not be easy for the Doctor to get out of this one "The most damning is yet to come!". Also given the series upheaval at the time, would the Doctor escape at all? Original intended impact is crucial in appreciating this one.
While not a great story, it is quite weird, especially up to this point on initial viewing. While over the top, Olvir's ranting certainly entranced and scared me on my first viewing. A leper ship? Tegan and Turlough missing? No wonder the Doctor looked worried. again, scare factor is the key.
Who is a great character writer, but a bit overated. His books are often crammed full of character angst, lots of people with grudges against other people, which might be great to read about if you're seventeen and hate the world but comes across as a little cynical later in life. However, Paul always manages to slot in a couple of magic moments in every one of his books (Timewyrm: Revelation has that haunting scene where the Doctor's deceased companions return to confront him, The Shadows of Avalon has him getting off on thrill of riding a dragon and saving peoples lives...) and he clearly loves the Doctor. He can write very sensitively and knows how to twist a knife in the gut when it comes to characters we've grown to love.
Best book(s): Human Nature, which is both enjoyable and heartbreaking. It's not an absolute masterpiece but it does pack quite a punch. Happy Endings, a fun, colourful romp to alienate new fans to the NA's but a joy for us regular readers. Love and War, heartbreaking to see Ace leave in such fashion but the introduction of the fabulou Bernice! The Shadows of Avalon, a tight, 'magical' tale with an excellent, series changing final twist.
Worst book(s): No Future, full of unlikable characters and aparrant character 'growth', this just sinks under its own angst. Terrible cover too.
Who deals with big, BIG ideas and somehow manages to pull them off. He is one of the more controversial Doctor Who writers, he likes his books to be a bit 'different' and so do I. I love how he plays about with narrative (his first person Leela in Eye of Heaven is astounding) and isn't afraid to let terrible things happen to good people (his treatment of the parallel world in Blood Heat and the destruction of many worlds in Beltempest is mind numbing). He does have the propensity to get on his moral high horse sometimes, or appear to be so interested in his huge concepts that he forgets we want some FUN too but overall he is a thought provoking writer and brilliantly different to any of the others.
Best book(s): Blood Heat, deserving of its classic status, as good as Inferno on the telly and then some. Eye of Heaven, an early PDA classic that focusses on Leela's predatory instincts. Her childlike look at the world is just compelling.
Worst book(s): Parasite, a long boring walk through hard SF and a culture that isn't that interesting.
Whose utter insanity has been entertaining people for years. Mr Stone's vocabulary is a frightening chasm of madness that somehow assembles onto the page in surreal and vivid ways. His books range from the mildly absurd to the mind numbingly bonkers but he writes laugh out loud comedy better than any other Doctor Who writer. His ability to just split off at a tangent and tell a million subplots whilst still writing an engaging main plot is admirable and I always come out of his books craving a nice Terrance Dicks target novel, something tediously simple after the lexical feast I have just endured. Dave Stone, more than any other writer has me grabbing the dictionary to find out just what the absurdly long words he uses means (okay, I'll own up, I actually keep a dictionary beside me as I read his books!!!). An insane man, but also brilliant.
Best book(s): Death and Diplomacy, an underated gem that scores high points for its excellent Benny/Jason scenes. Heart of TARDIS: Very funny, and a brilliant transition for Mary Tamm's Romana. Burning Heart: A great take on the sixth Doctor, this book is clever, economic and involving.
Worst book(s): The Slow Empire, proving that maybe Mr Stone has run out of steam. Some amusing bits but its mostly dull, especially the last fifty pages.
Writer of only two Doctor Who books but they are of such quality many other regular Doctor Who contributors don't get a look in (David A McIntee, Simon Bucher-Jones). His books are, at times, murderously complicated but his writes with such verve you know he's taking on you on the trip of your life. His two TARDIS teams, The 4th Doctor, Romana and K.9. and the 8th Doctor, Fitz and Anji were all captured beautifully and his switch from high comedy to claustrophobic horror was genius. Wildly unpredictable but very enjoyable, his two books left me satisfied with their endings and focussed throughout. And he wrote Hoopy, one of my favourite book characters ever ("This isn't agony... it's agony:2, the sequel!" and "Far out and totally not groovy!").
Best books(s): Both Festival of Death and Anachrophobia prove his talent, although the later scores a few extra points for its mind blowing ending.
Another writer of only two books. City of the Dead was sooo popular when it came it out fans of the books demanded another from Lloyd Rose and Camera Obscura, the result, is possibly my favourite Doctor Who book yet. Her prose is just amazing, not stoic or full of poetry, just really, really vivid, well described and palpable. Her two main locations, New Orleans and Crystal Palace are conjured up with such wonder and description I felt as though I were actually THERE. Her treatment of the 8th Doctor team is a particular joy, she understands Anji very well and gives her lots to impress us with. Just read her scenes with the Doctor and Sabbath and tell me it doesn't want you to proclaim the books are the best media Doctor Who is in. Truly an author who NEEDS to go on to give us greater things.
Best book(s): City of the Dead is stark and fascinating. Camera Obscura is a non stop thrill ride from begining to end.
One of my best friends HATES Paul Margs books. We have this regular debate about his books, their absudities and peculiar type of humour. I love his work because behind all the pink poodles and mad drunk time travellers is a genius at work, deconstructing Doctor Who and laying its insane concepts out for us bare. His prose is light and snappy and his dialogue as never less than perfect. He can write thick, beautifully explored works and quick, almost target-like, easy to read laugh fests. He is the only writer that can capture that wonderfully funny side to Doctor Who that authors seem to miss out, the underlying fact that everything that happens in the series is just silly.
Best book(s): The Scarlet Empress, Hyspero is one of two Doctor Who book worlds I would LOVE to visit. Mad Dogs and Englismen, for it's barking (chortle!) mad humour and touching ending.
Worst book(s): Verdigris, don't get me wrong its fun and delightful but it contains (I'm gay, dontcha know!) Tom, one of the most redundant book characters.
Who reminds me of the thrills and wonder of the universe like the series used to. He doesn't want to fill his books with angst or terror, he wants you to know what a GREAT place the universe is to hang out in. The Infinity Doctors is his gift to fandom, finally proving continuity is BOLLOCKS and not needed to tell a good story (amen to that!). He took on the idea of the Doctor having a daughter and took it to dramatic extremes, he had the nerve to toss the Doctor out of a twelve storey building, he even managed burst a building into rose petals in one of the most beautiful book scenes ever. He manages to pull off a Doctor Who James Bond parody (and who would have guessed that would work) by forgetting the guns and devices and concentrating on FUN. He also wrote one of the best ever Virgin New Adventures, knocking spots off the overated hacks that were struggling to find new ideas at the time. What a guy.
Best book(s): Father Time, not just great Who but GREAT fiction. The Doctor kicks the shit out of somebody. The Infinity Doctors, the death of Larna is a novel dramatic high. Just War, scary, scary, scary...
Worst book(s): Be serious!
Easily the most versatile book writer. What I love about his books is that every one is vastly different from the last one, with most of the above authors you know roughly what to expect, not with Steve Lyons. He's tried his hand at comedy, wartime drama, murder mystery, puzzle books, sixties nostalgia, historical drama... and walked away with reasonable success with each of them. I love his simpler yet in no way inferior prose and his wonderful ability to conjour up entire landscapes with a few well judged sentences. His characters are often very thought provoking (especially his 'victims'... Rebecca from The Witch Hunters, Mulholland from The Final Sanction and especially Jasper from The Crooked World) and I feel even though he doesn't always have a point, he always wants to entertain you to the fullest and succeeds. His greatest triumph is writing a Doctor Who book about cartoon characters, the thought alone makes you want to cringe. The fact that it's an absolute masterpiece of writing is just baffling.
Best book(s): The Crooked World, a recent EDA classic, proving that the old hacks are still as good as these new writers. The Witch Hunters, an emotionally torturous experience. An 'I'll never forget' book. Conundrum, a brilliant Virgin New Adventure that appeared when the range was in desperation.
Worst book(s): The Space Age, this is just dire and not at all to Steve's regular standards.
Kate Orman knows how to fuck with your head. She knows how to writes characters you'll love and then torture them in horrible ways. She's completely in love with the Doctor and turns him into a time travelling magician every time she writes a new book. She's not a showy author either, which I love. Often her books are slow, character works and the attention to detail is the strength not a dependancy on thrills or gore. Nobody wrote for Bernice quite like her and she gave Fitz and Anji real strength in her latest work. Her 'created' planets are often very memorable (Hitchemus was a character itself but Yemaya 4 and Ha'olam are great too) and she has an adept touch when it comes to big twists in the range, Benny finding her dad, Roz's death, Sam and the Doctor re-united, the Doctor turning wild... she writes so subtley these things creep up on you and before you know it, the shit has hit the fan. Her writing is quite beautiful.
Best book(s): So Vile a Sin, taking over from Ben at the last minute she creates a gripping masterpiece that refuses to let you relax. Vampire Science, the first sign that the BBC books could deliver and snappy, fast moving entertainment. Seeing I, a Who novel triumph, a unforgettable psychological thriller. The Year of Intelligent Tigers, a slow moving but memorable text featuring one of the best portrayals of the Doctor in print.
Worst book(s): Unnatural History... I never finished this horribly complicated book.
Or the Twist King. At times (and this may be heresy) Justin reminds me of Agatha Christie, he has this remarkable ability to slip in little clues early on in his books that turn out to be hugely important later. I often try and second guess his books (because that's half the fun) but he always, ALWAYS manages to trip me up once or twice in the most entertaining way. His range is quite incredible, he is all for nostalgia (and faithfull re-creates the 6th Doc and Peri, the 4th Doctor and Harry) but his original eighth Doctor works are proving unbeatable. His influence on the EDA's cannot go unmentioned, since he has taken over from Mr Cole the quality of the range has shot sky high. The books keep getting better and better because of his experimentation with new writers (such as Johnny Morris and Lloyd Rose above) and his amazing structure of the arc plots. His own books are superlative but his range is even better.
Best book(s): TIME ZERO, a roller coaster of emotional scenes, hard science and rampaging dinosaurs (cool!). The Burning, an atmospheric chiller and a superb way to re-invent the Doctor. Grave Matter, seriously scary fun. Theatre of War, Justin loves theatre, and so do we. Now.
Worst book(s): Demontage, not a bad book (it's quite fun really) but the only Justin Richards book I could coin... (dare I say it)... predictable.
Because: Pure entertainment value, I guess. It's nonsensically plotted rubbish but I can watch it over and over. I think it's because the Doctor, Mel, Glitz and Ace makes such a good combination - the Doctor's virtue counterbalances Glitz's greed, Ace's teenage moodiness counterbalances Mel's incessant peppiness, and vice versa. I like the general cheeriness, the way the Doctor decides to explore beneath Ice World just for a lark, getting all excited about the wonders on Glitz's treasure map and, typically, not caring one jot about the treasure itself. And Kane is, um chilling in every sense. Productionwise, I love the icy atmos and Dominic Glynn's evocative frostswept music.
Highlight: "Well, I'll think of the third by the time we get back to Perivale." The joyous beginning of a beautiful friendship...
Drawback: The beeb wouldn't let them show anything the colour of actual blood when Kane melted. Weenies! Oh, and that literal cliffhanger.
Because: To transform an oblique script that doesn't make much sense into a deeply absorbing ninety minutes of television takes real talent. It's sort of comparable to David Lynch in that respect. Plus it emphasises the Doctor as a character capable of working on an entirely other plane, fulfilling the Cartmel remit of restoring mystery to the little fella. And what's more, the chief clown is even creepier then Ronald McDonald. No mean feat.
Highlight: The Doctor clawing his way through maya to reach the gladiatorial 'dark circus' of the Gods of Ragnarok. What the hell?!
Drawback: The line 'Anybody remotely interesting is mad in some way or another' is delivered terribly.
Because: Marc Platt's beautifully descriptive vision of Gallifey is still the best I've read, always just a hair to the left of what you'd expect. Some say it's inconsistent with what we saw on screen, but that's not really fair. We never actually saw that much in the TV series anyway - only public places and officious chambers. Domestic Gallifrey never got a look-in. And of course the book deftly ties up several dangling threads from the New Adventures without it feeling forced, a la The Ancestor Cell. It's also worth pointing out that, contrary to popular opinion, Lungbarrow doesn't complete the supposed 'Cartmel Masterplan' of the latter TV seasons at all. Andrew Cartmel had a vision of the Doc as a messianic figure who probably hadn't always been a Time Lord and might even have been bloody God - what the NAs ultimately did was painstakingly reconcile this suggestion with the more traditional bored-student Doctor of The War Games and Deadly Assassin; the Doctor wasn't The Other after all, he just shared a bit of his genetic makeup; the Doctor wasn't supra-powerful, he'd just done a dodgy deal with an Elemental, etc.
Highlights: The Doctor is rounded on by his Cousins. Romana identifies herself as Fred.
Drawback: There's no Benny, which is a bit of a shame. I guess she was there for The Dying Days though.
Because: It seems so like a 'traditional' Doctor Who story - space stations with loads of identical corridors, lots of mentions of Time Lords, Rassilon, TARDISes etc., the return of old villains and a favourite past Doctor. But on closer inspection it's as vile as a jaundiced old liver covered in flies. Shockeye's constant hungering for the taste of human meat, the Doctor's evocation of the 'smell of armageddon', Chessene's lusting for a taste of the Doctor's splattered blood, the most loveable of Doctors transformed into a disgusting warty murderous gourmand (gourmand/androgum). Man, this story stinks. But it's unique, and that's why I, for want of a better word, 'like' it. Also, Shockeye is a genuinely frightening variation on the ogre figure.
Highlight: The Doctor hobbles across the Spanish countryside with the rabid Shockeye in eager pursuit. I think this is the only Doctor Who story to be influenced by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Drawback: The Sontarans are superfluous. Indulgent continuity theory: The Sontarans here are from an earlier period than those seen in the Pertwee/Baker years. Hence they don't rely on cloning yet, they haven't developed any form of time travel, and they still carry ceremonial 'big guns' in addition to those compact little wand-weapons. Aha!
Because: In essence it tells much the same story as Adventuress of Henrietta Street (give or take the odd broken heart). But it's a far more fluid read and about twenty times more fun. And, you know, the BBC just wouldn't publish a book where a main character constantly makes exclamations like 'By Satan's cock!'
Highlight: An important insight into what drives the Doctor, as he confronts the Carnival Queen.
Because: I love Mary Tamm's Romana and I've never seen her so entertainingly written as here. The book's selling point was that it featured my two favourite Doctors but it's the fair 'Trelundar who steals the show. And, when he doesn't let it run away with him, Dave Stone's mordant humour is a cathartic treat.
Highlights: "I don't know why you like twentieth century Earth so much. All those extermination camps, it's so depressing"; "Skies black with the bodies of the burning dead are rather noticeable by their absence"; "They don't like it when you say their name"/"I imagine it gives you some sort of power over them?"/"No no, it's just a demonic name with unfortunate connotations, rather like the English name of Crapper."
Drawback: A somewhat dodgy rendering of the Second Doctor.
Because: It's simply a strong story told well, a perfect example of how great the show can be when it's firing on all cylinders, so that it feels like a little movie all of its own. The way the Doctor is introduced at the beginning is cool, and Baker's Doc is edgier than we're used to seeing him. Scorby's in it, and so is Amelia Ducat - two classic characters, and they couldn't contrast with each other more. Ducat's very much of the (highly exportable) English-eccentric tradition from which the Doctor hails - she could have wandered in from an Ealing comedy.
Highlight: "You're not complete unless you've got a gun in your hand."
Drawback: It could have had a better ending.
Because: It must be the first attempt at an epic Doctor Who adventure, and it entertains almost all the way through despite it's length, dragging only in the interminable Christmas episode (not that I dislike the idea of a festive comedy episode, but I do sort of prefer my comedy funny -, still, Hartnell's 'All of you at home' bit is lovely). Mavic Chen's a memorably deluded bastard, the Daleks are completely rotten and Peter Butterworth injects some nice levity as the returning Meddling Monk. Two companions die - three, if you count Bret Vyon (and surely he qualifies just as much as Sara Kingdom), and the tension really racks up in the final episode.
Highlights: "You make your incompetence sound like an achievment!" the Dalek Supreme hisses at Chen; Sara heroically sacrifices herself; the Daleks scream horribly as they're aged to death by the time destructor ("Hraagh...Hragh....AAAAAGH!"; "Well, my boy, we've finally rid this planet of Daleks. Bret, Katarina... Sarah. What a waste... What a terrible waste."
Drawback: The Daleks have built a weapon powered by an incredibly scarce mineral. Wouldn't nuclear fission or something have been more convenient? Most bizarre suggestion ever made by a minor character: 'Perhaps we should send more mice?'. I know that's what I always do when I have a problem. I throw rodents at it.
Because: It may well be the most uneven Doctor Who story there is - for every really terrible bit there's another really excellent one. But dammit, I like those excellent bits. I think the three-episode DW format is analogous to the short story form - it can get away with more 'out there' stuff because it doesn't have to sustain its ideas to the bitter end. Also, the Kandyman and Helen A are each in their own way classic monsters.
Highlight: RIP Fifi
Drawback: The Go-Kart?
Rant: In reviewing this I said 'it needn't be seen as some kind of gay-rights parable, and cited Joe Ford's 'Doctor Who goes gay' comment. Joe got the impression I was saying it 'shouldn't' be seen that way, but all I meant was it was one valid interpretation among many. I've said this to Joe already actually, but I just wanted to set the record, er, straight.
Because: It pulls the rug out from under you in such a vicious manner you could sue Larry Miles for whiplash. Imagine Paul Cornell and Kate Orman having a lovely little picnic of tea and scones. Then imagine a five thousand tonne radioactive metal boot roaring out of the heavens and squishing them. It's almost unnecessarily vicious, but it strips the Whoniverse to the bare bones, then turns them inside out and builds a conceptual art sculpture out of the marrow. Or something.
Highlight: Chris Cwej. Nice guy.
Drawback: Why so truculent, Larry?
Because: Out of the few overt Doctor Who comedies this is the funniest. It's nicely constructed, with the Doctor and Mel arriving at the 'vulgar end of time' where everything's all lazy and postmodern and the Doctor is considered a mythical figure. They meet a fraudulent Doctor-companion team, who parody both the conventions of and misconceptions about the show. Colin Baker gets to play up the comic side of his Doctor, and Bonnie Langford gets to not be crap. And it has Matt 'George Dawes' Lucas in it!
Highlight: "Oh, and - Sally Anne is it? -, you can take your hands away now."
Because: It's probably Robert Holmes' richest script in terms of dialogue, and an excellent production. A great confection of gothic set pieces and strong characters, it's so thoroughly entertaining you're unlikely to spot the plotholes on a first viewing. And there are few Who villains quite as overtly vain and pathetic as Magnus Greel.
Highlight: The horrible Mr Sin leaps out of the darkness with a switchblade. Jesus, this is a children's programme?!
Drawback: The horrible Mr Sin turns into the laughable Mr Limp during his fatal showdown with the Doctor.
Because: Funnily enough I used to think of this as the least of Paul Magrs' Doctor Who novels (see my review), but now it's my favourite. Of the lot, this is the most similiar to Magrs' own fiction - indeed it even features characters from some of his non-Who books. That's not what makes it good of course; his beautiful, thorough-yet-zippy construction of atmosphere does that. Plus I'm from the north east, so, you know. Terrence Keenan suggested in reviewing The Also People that where Larry Miles is a universe-maker, Ben Aaronovitch is a world-maker. Extending that and fusing it with a comment by Finn Clark, I guess I'd call Magrs a meringue-maker. His work is brittle and trivial but invested with sweetness and sensuality.
Highlight: Barbarella Iris with her pretty pink ray gun.
Drawback: Occasionally erring on the side of pretension.
Because: Because I said so, that's why. Seriously, I love the Doctor-Romana-K9 team and this is probably the most thoroughly watchable story of season 16. The gothic trappings feel so familiar they're almost like old friends that don't get in the way, and there's something pleasant, almost reassuring, about the way it all gets silly at the end. Professor Rumford's a stand-out guest star too. In truth this is no classic, but it's a story I enjoy rewatching.
Highlight: The Doctor gets his barrister's wig out.
Drawback: We never find out what's with that man with the crows.
Because: Tom Baker needed a big, impressive story to go out on - fortunately, the moment had been prepared for... There are numerous flaws, like the Doctor's ludicrous plan to 'flush' the Master out of the TARDIS, the screeching eighties-style (funnily enough) printers used by the Logopolitans, and Nyssa being shoved abruptly into the story, then equally abruptly getting over the death of Traken. But Christopher Bidmead's central ideas - Logopolis itself, block transference, the development and culmination of the E-Space/CVE caboodle, the causal nexus stuff (which I admit I don't remotely understand) -are all magnificently ambitious and thorough. The new Master is quite, quite mad, if not entirely convincing. And there's a palpable sense of doom, right from the Doctor's first scene in the cloister chamber to the intermittent presence of the Watcher - who is in a way the Doctor's ghost as well as a physical premonition of his future -, to the Monitor's revelation that the universe 'long ago passed the point of collapse'. All of which bleakness is informed by the genuinely saddening realisation that Tom will soon be gone. 'I suppose we're going to miss Romana' he admits at one point. But what the scene's really saying is that we're going to miss him.
Highlights: As Tegan and Auntie Vanessa struggle to change a tyre, the camera moves slowly towards a distant white figure... instant goosebumps. Later, Tegan proves perceptive upon meeting the Master; "You revolting man!" And of course there's the regeneration scene.
Drawback: The dictaphone of death...
Because: If it weren't for this story there would be no Doctor Who. It'd be a forgotten educational children's show that ran for less than a year in the early sixties. Here we have nuclear anxiety, fascist allegory, and an evident HG Wells influence - a template Doctor Who adventure.
Highlight: "That's sheer murder!"/ "No. Extermination". Michael Grade types often laugh at the idea that anyone could ever have been scared of the trundley-dustbin Daleks. I guess they're either unable or unwilling to distinguish between something being scary because of what it looks like, and something being scary because of what it is. The Daleks are frightening because they're arrogant coldblooded murderers who'll kill you as soon as look at you, and have lethal weapons they'll use without compunction. Not because they appeal to an innate human fear of mobile pepperpots.
Drawback: Susan pissfarting around. Did you know 'Susan Foreman' is an anagram of 'Useless Moaner'? Well, almost anyway.
Because: Contrary to popular opinion, the eighties Cybermen were great! No other Doctor Who villain - except perhaps the Master in Assassin - has made as effective a comeback as the robotic rotters do here. It's an effective, fast-paced and exciting story with a shock unhappy ending (well, I say unhappy; I doubt fans were actually shedding many tears).
Highlight: "Destroy them! Destroy them at once!"; the fantastic March of the Cybermen music; the Doctor grating Adric's badge into the Cyberleader's chest.
Drawback: It takes Adric a whole ninety minutes to go away. Ho ho.
Because: Ben Aaronovitch takes us on a leisurely stroll through his imagination, and it's exhilarating from start to finish. I think Lars Pearson summed it up best - it's amazing how little the book tries to impress you, and how much it actually does. I wish I could move into the Worldsphere. The tone seems light, but because of that the twist ending packs a real emotional wallop - though I didn't notice until Terrence Keenan pointed it out to me that it was nicked from The Maltese Falcon. Oh well.
Highlight: Roz Forrester, without a doubt. Please, BBC website, do So Vile a Sin as your next ebook? Pleeease?
Because: It makes rare use of the alternative-universe idea in a very chilling way. Everything looks the same and you only realise something's up when your best friends do a nazi salute then try to shoot you. I think the Freudian term is for this sort of thing is 'unheimlich'? (meaning 'unhomely' - the familiar becoming scarily unfamiliar; presumably the German word has eerier connotations). I'd guess good old Malcolm Hulke owes some debt to The Twilight Zone too.
Highlight: The Doctor's entrance into the parallel world. Talk about an unheimlich manoeuvre... (sorry)
Drawback: England as a republic is portrayed as a Bad Thing.
Because: Easy enough to praise it because it's ten episodes barely drag or because it introduces the Time Lords so well. In fact, I think what really makes this story work is that its bad guys are not a uniform group of identical monsters. Rather, they're a bunch of individuals with egos, passions and irrational obsessions who don't entirely get along, and who aren't working properly in tandem because they're engaged in constant rivalry. The Security Chief and the War Chief of course demonstrate this best - the one a weaselly little nacker who probably thinks that speaking in that ludicrous sloooowed!-dooown!-stac!-cat!-to! makes him sound efficient; the other a swarthy time-travelling medallion man who probably has a mirrored ceiling in his quarters. But it extends to General Smythe too - betraying the War Lord because he's a vain bastard who's desperate for revenge on the Doctor. And that fella who's in charge of the mental processing, a kind of ineffectual schoolteacher figure (who doesn't appear to know he's doing anything wrong) getting dragged into his superiors' petty feud. Intergalactic office politics... It's Terrance Dicks' best contribution to the show by a mile, and one he hasn't been shy about remaking over and over (the Death Zone is an obviously variation on the 'war zone', and his WWII novels have recast his squabbling backseat militarists as actual nazis). And the casting is utterly superb - each and every character seems to have sprung undiluted from the script looking and acting the way they must have done in the writers' heads. Have you ever seen a General who looks more Generally than Smythe? A boss more intimidating than the War Lord? A nice chap more nice chappy than Carstairs? Even in the small role of a frightened soldier David Troughton is just the right choice. That the Time Lords are introduced so flawlessly is the icing on the cake.
Highlight: "Is that the best you can do? I've never seen such an incredible bunch!"
Drawback: SIDRAT? So that's Space in Dimensions Relative and Time, is it?
Because: It has the feel of a more complex up-to-date type of science fiction than we're used to in the series. It works better than the comparable Kinda because there a theme of sexual repression had to be, well, repressed by the producer and director - thus making a nonsense of an already opaque script. No such problem here. Two main themes are inertia and subjugation, but that's about as much as I can tell you as I still haven't puzzled the story out. It's like spending ninety minutes on a completely other plane. In a very, very refreshing way.
Highlights: The opening tracking shot suggests this is going to be something special; "The shadow of my past, and of your future"; Romana obliviously blowing dust in Adric's face; "This is no way to run an Empire"; "You were the noblest Romana of them all!"
Because: Because I'm a stubborn bastard? Maybe. I think the confrontation between Davros and the Doctor is one of the strongest scenes in the show's history (and it was replayed as recently as Camera Obscura). This is also the only story where I particularly like Tegan, and I'm moved by her abrupt departure. I like the fact that the Doctor can be shown as cowardly and desperate and hypocritical, and yet never less than sympathetic. I think the Daleks here are more vicious and cunning than we'd seen them in years, so the frequently-made criticism that they're 'too robotic' baffles me. These are Daleks who say things like "When it is time to die you will, in your agony, beg to pay homage to the Daleks!" - that's not a robot, that's an egomaniacal sadist. I see Styles (the Rula Lenska character) as a hero - she's a cynic, she isn't 'looking to become a martyr', but she's damn well going to kill herself to defeat the Daleks anyway. I believe in her and like her - I'm moved when she dies because it seems the fate of heroes in this story is to fail. I cheerfully admit the serial doesn't have anything you could really call a plot, but there's far too much great drama here for me to turn my back on it.
Highlights: Fantastic dialogue and acting in the Davros and Tegan scenes mentioned above, which more than make up for the terminal "I can't stand the confusion in my mind!".
Drawbacks: Oh, they're numerous. One I want to point out is that the director doesn't make enough of Mercer's death. It is important in the script - it's what prompts Stien(?) to do away with himself and the Daleks -, but because it happens almost in the background of a shot that isn't really brought home, and it seems offensively casual.
Because: It's an ambitiously large story, a portrait of a society in microcosm that features 'monsters' but no bad guys. It's very atypical Doctor Who in some ways, and yet not in others - the Doctor still charges into the situation and puts it right.
Highlights: The excellent cliffhangers. Even the final episode ends on one!
Drawback: Enter the yellow menace...
Because: It's Paul Cornell (almost) free of self-indulgence, a strong story that starts off fairly light and unfolds into tragedy. The Doctor's inhumanity is laid shockingly bare, and we see his mission start to take its personal toll. Fortunately Bernice arrives fully formed and offers the possibility of redemption.
Drawback: The Sixth Doctor dismissed as 'the colourful jester'. Oh fuck off.
Because: It's one of the first Doctor Who stories to draw on the series' own mythology - everything depends on our knowledge of what the Daleks will become and we watch with a growing sense of moral horror and fear for the characters. The rise of the Daleks is inevitable and, Cassandra-like, only we and the Doctor know it. And Michael Wisher is so good as Davros that it hurts.
Highlights: "We'll wipe the Thals from the face of Skaro!"/"Yes, I've heard that before."; The confrontation between the Doctor and Davros; "We obey no-one. We are the superior beings!"
Drawback: It's noticeably padded, and could easily have been done as a four-parter.
Because: It's the first sign of the EDAs gaining their own identity and set of concerns, and conceptually it's wonderful - the biodata, the nature of the Shift, UNISYC, the impending Future War, TARDISes that breed in the vortex, the Celestis, Faction Paradox... It's just an amzingly fresh Doctor Who story, comparable to The Deadly Assassin in the way it flings new idea upon new idea at you within an enjoyable and deceptively simple story structure.
Highlight: Nothing changed, and no-one else came.
Because: A while back I posted a review of the Cybermen on this site, mentioning how I wanted to see a 'Genesis of the Cybermen' story that emphasised the tragedy of their plight. A few months later, my wish came true! And to the letter - this is everything I could have asked for and more. Thank you, Big Finish and Marc Platt.
Highlight: Home for the holidays...
Drawback: An occasionally inaudible Committee.
Because: Jim Mortimore has a huge vision and he expresses it flawlessly through powerfully visceral writing. He reinvents Leela as fantastically as Dave Stone reinvented Romana, and she's the star of a simply stunning novel.
Highlight: "You will have good crops this year."
Because: The setup sounds like that of many a Terrance Dicks novel - a WWII story featuring real, famous people and events - but there the comparison ends. This is a fantastic evocation of three irreconcilably different voices, and its final twist comes as a genuine surprise.
Highlight: The portrayal of the Doctor himself, as related through the accounts of Turing, Greene and Heller. Even filtered through these big voices the Doctor cuts a charismatic figure.
Because: A bunch of noble warriors and not-so-noble conmen from outer space get up to dodgy dealings on a planet still in its dark ages. Into this setup comes a bohemian dropout looking for a piece of glass that will help him save spacetime from armageddon. He's accompanied by the most beautiful woman in the universe, and a tin dog. Come now, what more could you want? Great acting? Got it. Great atmosphere? Yep. Great script? Holmes, you astound me!
Highlights: Fred, Binro the heretic.
Drawbacks: That daft-looking creature. A mate of mine came over while I was watching this and had a chuckle at it. Which just goes to show, because I barely even notice the thing.
Because: Davison's Doctor comes into his own in a gorgeously directed epic about two complete bastards who hate each other and drag another complete bastard into their feud. It's a very eighties story, with lots of gun-toting and a monstrous capitalist villain, and the imagery is grim and industrial - drug running, mining, caves - but you know what the story is really about? Beauty. Beauty and how we cling to it. Spectrox is in demand because it retards the ageing process and stops you becoming wrinkly and unattractive. Jek hates Morgus because it's his fault he ain't pretty no more. Jek's craving for Peri is self-explanatory.
Highlights: "Hold me"; The Doctor and Peri escaping by the skin of their teeth as the shit hits the fan; "Adric?"; "You were expecting someone else?"
Drawback: We never get to hear the end of this sentence: "Sarcasm isn't your strong point, Peri. If I were you I'd stick to-". What?! What is Peri's strong point? It's hard to believe the Doctor was really about to say "-getting your tits out."
It's difficult to plave these in any particular order based on any number of factors including production, effectiveness and general cohesion to the plot, so I'll go with effectiveness and impact on the viewer. I try to imagine and in some cases remember what it was like seeing these cliffhangers without knowing what happens in the next episode.
Top Ten Blatant Retcons by Andrew Wixon 27/1/03
10. The Doctor thinks smoking is 'very bad for you'! (Obviously he's one of those sanctimonious ex-smokers, as he carries a pipe in An Unearthly Child.)
9. The Doctor can play the harp! (Clearly he has lessons between The Romans and The Five Doctors.)
8. The Doctor 'isn't a medical doctor'! (Despite getting his medical degree under Lister in 1888, according to The Moonbase.)
7. Guns do work in the TARDIS! (This would be news to Andred.)
6. Kronos destroyed Atlantis! (This would be news to Azal.)
5. The freighter wiped out the dinosaurs! (This would be news to the Silurians, who seemed pretty certain it was the Moon.)
4. The TARDIS exterior is invulnerable to any outside force! (Except those pesky Sensorite guns, obviously...)
3. Time Lords can die of old age! (Not according to The War Games.)
2. Davros created the Daleks, who used to be called Kaleds! (None of this was the case in the original Dalek story.)
1. He's half human! (Not in the BBC TV series he wasn't!)
Top Ten best Doctor Who authors by Joe Ford 3/2/03
I love Doctor Who books, I can't think of anything else I get THAT excited about having every month. Of course there have been some rough patches here and there but overall the Doctor Who book universe is full of magic and wonder, capturing the joy and adventure of the series and stretching it into the media. I learnt so much about prose, characterisation, plot structure and twists just by reading these books. And here are my favourite writers, the ones who never let me down, the ones who I would love to thank for opening my mind that little bit more...
10) Paul Cornell.
9) Jim Mortimore.
8) Dave Stone.
7) Johnathon Morris.
6) Lloyd Rose.
5) Paul Margs.
4) Lance Parkin.
3) Steve Lyons.
2) Kate Orman (and at times Jon Blum).
1) Justin Richards.
I just wanna say thanks guys, your books have been a real inspiration to me.
My Top Forty Stories (part one) by Rob Matthews 11/2/03
Well, you know. Fortieth anniversary, I thought I'd list my forty favourite stories out of them wot I know. And then attempt haphazardly to rank them. I ended up writing so much I'm going to mercifully submit this in two parts : - )
39. The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
37. The Two Doctors
36. Christmas on a Rational Planet
35. Heart of TARDIS
34. The Seeds of Doom
33. The Dalek Masterplan
32. The Happiness Patrol
31. Dead Romance
30. The One Doctor
29. The Talons of Weng Chiang
28. The Blue Angel
27. The Stones of Blood
25. The Dead Planet/The Daleks
23. The Also People
21. The War Games
Phew. So there. And we'll be back with the final countdown right after this.
My top forty stories (part 2) by Rob Matthews 26/2/03
20. Warriors Gate
19. Resurrection of the Daleks
18. Full Circle
17. Love and War
16. Genesis of the Daleks
15. Alien Bodies
14. Spare Parts
13. Eye of Heaven
12. The Turing Test
11. The Ribos Operation
10. The Caves of Androzani
9. Remembrance of the Daleks
Because: You know, I think this was what JNT wanted for the series all along - fast-paced and witty action-adventure-thriller serials. It's hugely enjoyable, very well-layered so you don't have to get the references to the show's past but can feel rather smug when you do, and it's bold enough to make big, but not unreasonable changes in the Doctor's character.
Highlight: The Doctor humorously mocks the idea that he could deal with Daleks by 'talking to them sternly'. Then he destroys a Dalek by talking to it sternly...; an effective action scene as a Dalek trashes a chemistry lab and Ace barely escapes with her life; "You have tricked me!" Davros wails. "No, Davros" says the Doctor. "You tricked yourself."
Drawbacks: I dunno. You'll have to ask Terrence Keenan : - )
8. The Robots of Death
Because: I always think I'm going to like zombie films and I never do - apart from the first and last ten minutes, Night of the Living Dead bores me silly. But this serial, in a skewed kinda way, is the only zombie movie I've ever enjoyed. And the influences - Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert and Agatha Christie, apparently - are seamlessly woven in. Plus the robots are beautifully designed to blend in with the art deco sandminer and its crew - the designers have clearly bothered to read the script and extrapolate.
Highlight: The intelligence and structure of the script. Leela's instinctive fear of robots is shared by the crew of the sandminer, only they're too civilised to know it. Poul seems a well-rounded man but when he sees that bloodied robot hand and his mind instantly shatters like glass, we know this has been his most terrible fear all along. It's a moment of real horror - confirmation of the literally unthinkable.
Drawback: The inclusion of the 'cute' childlike robot D84 rather contradicts the scary-because-they're-mindless-automatons thing.
7. Set Piece
Because: It's just sheer poetry from beginning to end. Nuff said.
Highlights: Orman's thorough research suffuses the writing. The Doctor does battle with a flower.
6. The Curse of Fenric
Because: I see the story as similiar to that other Norse-force story Greatest Show in the Galaxy, except better. It throws up more questions than it really answers, and contrary to popular belief it's a lot more confusing than Ghost Light. But it has more threads to it than just about any other Doctor Who story, and somehow they all knit together just right. It posits a Doctor more powerful than we've ever seen, and dares to create an entity who is Evil incarnate. Yet it concerns itself with the fallibility of humans and the banality of their own evil. Everything about it is superb, with special mention going to the director and composer, and the all-location shooting gives it a real-world 'elemental' feeling that studio scenes might not have evoked.
Highlights: "Tonight I shall die. And the words, die"; "...And then, the screaming stopped"; "Tell me!"; "We play the contest again, Time Lord"; "I think this is what Doctor Judson would have wished"; "You think I didn't know? The chess set in Lady Peineforte's study?"
Drawback: Only that they had to trim the Doctor's confrontation with the Ancient Haemovore from the transmitted version - a verbal trip from ninth century Transylvania to the northern shores of Britain via Constantinople and Europe. It sheds a lot of light on the presence of the Haemovores and improves the final showdown.
5. Ghost Light
Because: I think this is just a personal taste thing - the story refers to a lot of gothic Victoriana I happen to be familiar with, and it's a tightly bound series of enjoyably crafted set pieces. Antony Tomlinson suggested in a review that "fans desperate to find the show's 'mature' period have decided it must only be incomprehensible because it's so clever". This is similiar to something Justin Richards said about The Happiness Patrol, and I find it equally insulting - because it's accusing fans of in some way lying, at least to themselves. If I say I enjoy Ghost Light, it's because I enjoy Ghost Light. And if it gets messy when I try to explain why, excuse me. But I certainly don't have some agenda. And it's not incomprehensible anyway.
Highlight: Hairy palms... I must have a bit of a wicked streak, because this bit always makes me chuckle.
4. Revelation of the Daleks
Because: I did admit in reviewing this story that technically it's not as good as Genesis. In terms of entertainment value it's not as flabby around the middle either, and the simple fact is I enjoy rewatching it more. It's a unique Doctor Who story, Eric Saward's finest hour (I know a lot of people would consider that a backhanded compliment), another triumph for Graeme Harper, and - in terms of the themes it handles - is more adult than most of the televised stories.
Highlights: "I am to become a Dalek"; the Doctor's confrontation with Davros.
3. City of Death
Because: It's the cream of the Graham Williams-Douglas Adams crop, and also the best Doctor-Romana story.
Highlights: Come now, it's composed of nothing but highlights. There's something rather poignant about that final scene too.
Drawbacks: The only flaw I ever notice is that Duggan's a bit of a one-joke character.
Because: It's gripping, vital, intelligent and wildly imaginative, and I can't remember another Who book that felt so damn enormous and properly postmodern (as opposed to weird-shit postmodern). The television metaphor (the Remote etc) is great. A lot of people think of it as Dead Romance's poor relative, but I just can't agree. So I was quite chuffed to see reviewer-extraordinaire Finn Clark questioning that viewpoint too.
Highlight: Faction Paradox trash the Blue Peter garden.
Drawback: There are seventy-five billion branches of Waterstones in London, and each and every one of them stocks only Book 2. Amazon too.
1. The Deadly Assassin
Because: When you look at this one in the context of the serials around it you can barely believe how complex and ahead of its time it is. It follows the screenwriting axiom of entering the story at the latest possible point, plunging us full-force into this world right from the off and adding to our knowledge of it with virtually every line.
Highlight: I love the calculating Darth Sidiousness of the Master, particularly in the opening scenes - veritably crawling out of the woodwork to rasp the words 'Predictable as ever, Doctor.'
Phew. And there we have it. Predictable towards the end, I know, but I'm not gonna put The Sontaran Experiment or something at no.1 just to be peculiar. Just missing out were Seeds of Death (terrible but fun - I'm frightened of Slaar!), The Dying Days, Year of Intelligent Tigers, and Keeper of Traken.
10 poignant Dr. Who memories by Gareth McG 27/2/03
Without doubt the Ratings Guide here is one of the greatest resources for reading well-written critical dissections of Doctor Who stories. It is not what interests me most about the site though. That honour goes to the passionate defences of certain stories provided by people based solely on the joy that it brought to their childhood. Even so-called ‘turkeys’ are shielded fervently from criticism and it really does go to show how close to one's heart people hold personal memories, particularly childhood memories. It is analogous to how a mother will defend one of her kids, regardless of their sins. Love is blind, as they say. So here are my ten fondest memories of Who (in chronological order), memories that will be forever poignant and which will forever bias my judgement of this programme:
Ten Notable Voice Artists by Mike Morris 11/3/03
Life's tough for people who can do funny voices; while a very small quantity become professional impressionists, it's a difficult talent to do anything with (except for that guy from Police Academy). Most television programmes only really call for people who, well, speak like normal people.
Now when the Beeb made science fiction programmes, things were different. Doctor Who provided gainful employment for those who, otherwise, would just be doing impressions at a party somewhere. Here, I salute ten people who were not seen but heard.
Top Ten Books that would have make FAB TV episodes by Joe Ford 26/3/03
10) The Crooked World (EDA)
A terrific book that would suit the experimental side of the TV series perfectly. With today's effects the Doctor, Fitz and Anji could be effectively planted into a cartoon world. I've even cast the parts! McGann would be the Doctor of course, Anji would be played by that bird from The Thin Blue Line and Fitz is so Stephen Fewell from the Benny audios! Some the story's more outlandish scenes, Anji in the TARDIS as it heads down a cliff, Fitz attempting to seduce Angel Falls only to find she doesn't have the right bits, and the custard pie gun would make utterly riotous telly. In many ways the story unfolds like the film Pleasantville with the wacky world introduce in harmony, introducing the unstable elements and watching the world fall to pieces as the people discover themselves and finally ending in a court case that triumphantly reveals the new way is not is terrible as people think. Pleasantville is an incredibly touching film and this would be just as thought provoking and with similarly stunning effects as beautifully cinematic.
9) Millennium Shock (PDA)
Maybe its just the way Justin Richards writes his action novels but this would be one excellent pulse racing story. There are a number of deliciously unpredictable moments that this sort of high octane TV story would need and a number of gruesomely memorable deaths to leave you reeling. The Doctor is on form at his most Doctor-ish and I would pay good money to see Tom Baker driving a tank across deserted London. It would have been nice to re-visit Harry later on in life too.
8) The Caught on Earth Arc (EDA)
Oh it would be a wonderful season and you know it, re-vitalising the series format in a most unexpected way. The Doctor would once again be unpredictable and alien and (most importantly) a tragic figure we could follow through six heart rending stories that show his desperation to escape the earth. You've got a traditional alien invasion story in The Burning filled with lots horrible moments to leave you squeaming (X-Files style!), a horror story with a touching character study of the Doctor almost falling for an earthling, an experimental story told from voice over of three characters from history with a devasting ending, a lighter, funner action story spanning the world over (featuring tonnes of breathtaking location work!), a stunning character story showing the Doctor coming to terms with his imprisonment and making a family for himself and finally a exciting, action packed finale pushing the show back into more traditional territory. If this had been on telly it would be heralded as the bravest season ever. What's more it could focus on what I feel is Doctor Who's strongest point... its fascinating depiction of history.
7) Vampire Science (EDA)
Instead of the TV Movie of course. Sod trying to explain away the regeneration away, just start McGann's time with his Doctor already settled with a sassy companion who is learning how dangerous it would be to be a companion. Truly if Doctor Who was to return now I would expect stories of this type turning up, with deeper characterisation than we are used, a nice modern feel but with a few old nostalgic ties (UNIT) and a good pace full of action and excitement. Plus a Doctor who feel just like a magician... the ability of Orman and Blum to make his character so unpredictable and yet lovely means they would make great script editors on a new series.
6) Camera Obscura (EDA)
But could they do Lloyd Rose's prose justice and depict Victorian London as well as she does? The graphic element of this story would perhaps be too much for many but it would certainly make a memorable tale. Time travel has rarely been dealt with so cleverly and some of the imagery this book offers up (which I can't mention for spoiler reasons) would disturb and fascinate. It would be a treat to see the Doctor so desperate and weak and yet still so determined, McGann would take the excellent dialogue and run with it. Plus we could grab the attention of fans of history, horror and mystery and bring them on board the Doctor Who wagon. This would be an extremely stylish production to match an extremely stylish plot.
5) Amorality Tale (PDA)
Oh gee this so should have been made in season eleven instead of Monster of Peladon. A gripping character study and a gorgeous depiction of 1950's London. I would love to see Lis Sladen get the larger role she is afforded here, standing up, as she does, to bullying gangsters and double dealing to get into organisations. Jon Pertwee would have played this more melancholic Doctor vividly, aware of his approaching re-generation. But it's the secondary characters that would shine here and for such a memorable dialogue heavy book it would take no trouble to translate this to the screen. Ethics, morality, aliens and violence... yes this would make a fine four parter indeed.
4) The Witch Hunters (PDA)
Quite simply the most touching novel there is which, if televised would match The Aztecs and The Massacre for its sheer emotional power. Such a shame Steve Lyons wasn't around to write scripts in the sixties as there is nothing in this story that would be beyond the BBC's budget to realise. Carole Ann Ford would have her best story as a persecuted Susan and Hartnell would have done full justice to the haunted portrayal of the Doctor who cannot interfere with history. Another historical story I would love to see.
3) Mad Dogs and Englishmen (EDA)
Oh come it would rock. If you're one of those dullards who thinks Doctor Who has 'boundaries' stop reading as this would out-camp the Graham Williams era and out-tack anything from JNT. I would love to see the space station that is described as looking like a washing up liquid bottle and the poodles could all be voiced by really famous celebrities just to add to the fun of it all. The hopping through time would be a riot and some of the imagery (the toys coming to life in particular) would be FX triumphs. What's more it would be great to see the Doctor and co let their hair down... when the show comes back we don't just want serious stuff. Oh and it would make my day to see the Doctor and his two companions naked in a kennel being offered squeaky toys, Paul McGann in particular. Hee hee.
2) Grave Matter (PDA)
Richards again who writes for Colin's Doctor with a real flair for wit, this spooky tale of zombies would have nestled in perfectly in season twenty-two. Lots of atmospheric location work would help and the gothic undercurrents would be just what the show needed to re-capture some of that behind the sofa magic. We would have loads of scary stuff such as Peri being attacked by all manner of animals and allies who turn out to be enemies at the blink of an eye. Plus we would get to spend the entire first episode with the Doc and Peri trying to work out if they are in the past or not.
1) Eater of Wasps (EDA)
Oh what else... it practically screams I should have been made for TV on every page. The quiet English village, the insects turned bad, the small cast that gets whittled down, the out of place SF plot... hell it's a Pertwee story already. Except it would be made with McGann with some dazzling FX featuring horrific wasp attacks that would terrify children for generations to come. What's more we would have breathless fights on top of moving trains, companions kidnapped by a man mutating into a wasp and a gripping bomb countdown that would leave you on the edge of your seat. Come on, you want to see it already don't you?
Top Ten Characters I Wish Had Been Companions by Bernard O'Hara 1/4/03
Top Ten Cliffhangers by Terrence Keenan 8/4/03
10 -- The Face of Evil, ep one: The discovery of that monument. Must have been a mind blower upon the first broadcast.
09 -- Remembrance of the Daleks, ep one: A combination of critical annihilation and fanboy wish fulfillment. Plus, Syl sells the terror and confusion.
08 -- Inferno, ep six: The end of the world. 'Nuff said.
07 -- The Mind Robber, ep one: The TARDIS breaks up. Done with enough surrealness and impact, despite the lack of budget and limits in visuals.
06 -- The Dalek Invasion of Earth, ep one: A Dalek comes out of the Thames. Brilliant! Especially since there was no warning that the Daleks would be coming back.
05 -- The Caves of Androzani, ep three -- The Doctor redeems himself after a season where he's had his values questioned and thrown back in his face. It's a declaration of friendship and a reiteration of his core values.
04 -- The War Games, ep ten: Feels like the end of a series. Everything is poised to end on a down note, as the series is turned on its ear.
03 -- Horror of Fang Rock, ep three: "I've locked it in, with us." Big Tommy B plays it seriously. A battle plan is shown to have gone awry. Brilliant.
02 -- The Seeds of Doom, ep three: Sarah is offered up as Krynoid bait while the Doctor watches from a sky light. Played with all seriousness and gravis.
01 -- The Deadly Assassin, ep three: "Finished, Doctor! Finished!" Who at its most savage and frightening. The freeze frame adds to the menace. It's not some monster attacking the Doc and bringing him to the point of death, but a fellow Time Lord in a savage duel to the death. Still sends shivers up and down my spine.
Top forty stories by Joe Ford 27/5/03
Following the footsteps of my good friend Rob Matthews I have embarked on this mammoth task of trying to compile my top forty stories encompassing all medias. I'm sure some of you will agree with me and others will think i'm insane but here it is....
40: The Banquo Legacy (BBC 8th Doctor book)
Why is it so great: This excellent book manages to do several incredible things at once. Firstly it's brilliantly written (and during the Steve Cole era that was something to be thankful for!), secondly it has a fascinating narrative structure, being told from the point of view of two characters who are not a part of the TARDIS team and thirdly it manages to tell a horror that manages to scare. The first half is an engaging character piece and the second half indulges in some delightful gross out moments. Plus it manages to add some tension to the rapidly concluding Compassion arc.
Any drawbacks: The first person prose can make describing events a little less vivid than usual.
39: The Invasion (2nd Doctor adventure)
Why is it so great: Oh come on! Patrick Troughton is at his all time most mischievous, delightfully unravelling the fiendish Cyberman invasion plot. The story is chock-a-block full of memorable images from the psychopathic Cyberman screaming in the sewers to the metal meanies walking down the steps of St Paul's Cathedral. Douglas Camfield directs with a true military touch giving the story a hard edge but excellent light relief is on hand in the form of Isobel Watkins and the ever delightful Jamie and Zoe. The last three episodes are Doctor Who at it's all time finest. And who doesn't love that daft last scene with the crew trying to find the invisible TARDIS?
Drawbacks: At eight episodes long there are a few slow spots.
38: Vampire Science (BBC 8th Doctor book)
Why is it so great: A triumph of style AND substance this effective morality tale works both as an introduction to the 8th Doctor and Sam and an honest to good vampire tale. There are lots of scary bits like Sam discovering the caged humans and her attack in the nightclub and the Doctor is completely re-invented using the US movie as an excellent template. His bravery and eccentricity are all in order and the way he seems to improvise his way through the story is compelling to read. It looks to the past (UNIT) and to the future.
Drawbacks: Kramer was never used again!
37: Festival of Death (BBC 4th Doctor book)
Why is it so great: A brilliantly complicated book with delightful characters and a unique look at the insanity of the 4th Doctor of his period. This book aced so many polls and I can fully understand why, it is non stop fun from begining to end. I especially loved the ridiculous time-travel twists but much of the plot is so hysterical I had trouble reading without wetting myself. The jokes are great and the mystery unravels at an excellent pace. Proof that not only Gareth Roberts has this TARDIS crew to a tee.
Drawbacks: Hoopy was never used again!
36: Black Orchid (5th Doctor adventure)
Why is it so great: Because it dares to break from the norm, the first episode is a chance to see the TARDIS crew at play and relax and it just goes to show how much more bearable they are this way. Sarah Sutton delivers a tour de force double performance as Nyssa and Ann. The production itself is excellent with some stylish location work and some gorgeous sets, the writing is appropriately whimsical and the adventure wraps up in a most satisfying way. What's more Peter Davison spends most of the story wandering about talking to himself so we don't have to put up with him that much.
Drawbacks: I wish the piano murder-mystery score could have been more prominent.
35: The Stones of Venice (8th Doctor Big Finish
Why is it so great: Another story that dares to be a bit different this romantic dram struck all the right chords with me. Paul Magrs loves to write fairy-tale like stories which is good because I like to be swept away by dreams of decaying Venice, mysterious (and melodramatic!) cultists, dukes and duchesses, grand opulent balls, ancient curses... it's all so magical and seductive I lose myself and my worries every time I give it another listen. What makes it really special though is the outstanding music by Russell Stone, he gives the story a wonderfully ethereal feel.
Drawbacks: Some arch performances.
34: The Crusade (1st Doctor adventure)
Why is it so great: On it's two surviving episodes alone this is clearly a superior adventure and so much better than the rest of the drivel in season two. The performance by William Hartnell is nothing short of breathtaking but even he is threatened by actors of the calibre of Jean Marsh and Julian Glover. The story looks gorgeous, Douglas Camfield always manages to give his stories a polished look but this story looks as though it had three or four times its budget. It would certainly rival any historical film of the time. The script is perfect (and I mean PERFECT) with some dialogue that just makes my toes tingle.
Drawbacks: I can only watch two episodes of this masterpiece.
33: The Ultimate Foe (6th Doctor adventure)
Why is it so great: The excellent conclusion to the unfairly treated Trial of a Time Lord saga, this two parter has a wealth of unforgettable moments that cannot be neglected. The sixth Doctor's condemnation of his people is rightly praised but that is just one twist in a breathtaking first episode, indeed the revelation that the Valeyard IS the Doctor still haunts me today. The surreal imagery cooked up by director Chris Clough is frightening, especially the horrible cliff-hanger of hands bursting from quicksand and dragging the Doctor down with them.
Drawbacks: Bonnie Langford occasionally OTT's her dialogue.
32: Damaged Goods (Virgin 7th Doctor book)
Why is it so great: It's dark and mature and horrifically adult. It has a companion who gets it on with another guy and a monster that will never stop giving me the willies. It has a frighteningly accurate atmosphere of the eighties depression and some really scary characters. Filled with some of the most memorable guest characters to appear in a Virgin adventure and a good balance of realism and macabre imagination this is one story I will never forget.
Drawbacks: Roz isn't around enough.
31: The Infinity Doctors (BBC Past Doctor book)
Why is it so great: Because it is! Throwing continuity out of the window to tell a good story was Bob Holmes' ultimate rule and scribbler extraordinaire Lance Parkin follows in his footsteps to deliver the ultimate continuity nightmare. With a story that features the Doctor, Gallifrey, Sontarans, Rutans, Rassilon, Omega it should have been a disaster. Season twenty all over again. But somehow, somehow by giving us a look at Gallifrey like we've never seen before, an anonymous Doctor we're always second guessing, a true insight into the alien ruthlessness of the monsters at war, shocks, twists, vivid imagery and an excellent 'companion' in Larna, Parkin manages to pull it off superbly. I loved it.
Drawbacks: It was occasionally a little complicated but I put that down to the simpleton in me.
30: The Two Doctors (6th Doctor adventure)
Why it is so great: A twisted tale with a great sense of humour this is just non stop fun from begining to end. Teaming up Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant with Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines is just a dream come true and their obvious chemistry spills over on the screen into something utterly infectious to watch. The story is filled with priceless moments you just want to bottle and keep and has some of the grossest, sickest moments the show ever offered up too! It's all wrapped up in the gorgeous Spanish location work and with a catchy score it becomes a first class classic all the way!
Drawbacks: The pace does slacken at times and there is a complete divergence from the main plot in episode three (but it's screamingly funny so I won't complain too much!).
29: The Fires of Vulcan (7th Doctor Big Finish
Why is it so great: The most versatile writer Steve Lyons offers up a challenging historical with a superb mystery at its heart (is the TARDIS going to be buried under molten lava?). The story is treated to one of the best ever Big Finish soundscapes and if you shut your eyes you really are taken back to Pompeii, seagulls, rain storms, volcanic eruptions and all! The music is worthy of a film and well worth a listen separate from the story to just how dramatic it actually is. But most of all for returning Bonnie Langford to the world of Doctor Who and sticking her fingers up at every one of her critics by delivering a performance so good it makes her contempories look like amateurs. You go girl!
Drawbacks: The last episode surprisingly lacks the wallop of the earlier ones.
28: Image of the Fendahl (4th Doctor adventure)
Why is it so great: So neglected by Doctor Who fandom, this is simply the best Doctor Who horror story there ever was. It is the best script written by Chris Boucher (yes including Robots of Death) being both spine tinglingly scary and very funny in places. The production sparkles from the terrifying Fendahleen to the expensive looking location work. Leela at this point is such a fascinating character and teaming her with Tom Baker's loony Doctor was stroke of genius as they really bring this story alive. I love the hammeresque music too.
Drawbacks: Those painted on eyes... oh dear.
27: Nightshade (Virgin 7th Doctor book)
Why is it so great: A nostalgic book that hits all the right notes to a pulp SF fan like me and works best when read in a dim light wrapped up in a duvet on a cold night. It's the horror elements that stick in your mind the most, I can still remember my hand trembling as I read the scene with the woman having a bath and her dead husband walking up the stairs... and that was years ago. The Doctor and Ace pairing could still work, ably proven by the talented Mark Gatiss and they share some lovely moments in this.
Drawbacks: Lots of nice characters die horrible deaths, effective but unfair!
26: The Year of Intelligent Tigers (BBC 8th
Why is it so great: Upon my second reading of this book I found myself less enthralled with it and the pace a little too slow. None of this matters one jot of course because this is surely Kate Orman's best solo book ever. Her writing is gorgeous, she fills the pages with sights and scents that make the book a pleasure to read. Her character work is phenomenal, dealing with the Doctor/Anji fireworks with a particularly adept touch and giving Fitz some unique moments of his own. The dramatic moments just take your breath away from the many shocking deaths to the heartfelt, shock ending that left my heart on my sleeve for what is one of the best ever portrayals of the Doctor.
Drawbacks: As I say the pace needs fastening but then that would come at the expense of the characters and that just would not do.
25: Frontios (5th Doctor adventure)
Why is it so great: The fifth Doctor is finally given a real lease of life and Peter Davison takes the excellent script and runs with it. He is superb, dashing about, angry and witty and intelligent, how I would like to see him all the time. Even Tegan and Turlough have their uses here (swoon!) and make very effective companions. The guest cast are simply divine and the ideas in Chris Bidmead's complex script are extremely appealing. It's the darker edge that impresses most though. Excellent work.
Drawbacks: Peter Gilmore... eugh!
24: The Adventuress of Henrietta Street (BBC
8th Doctor adventure)
Why is it so great: Falls in two categories, you either love it with every fibre of your being or find it just plain dull, im in the earlier category and when I first read this comprehensive text I was too engrossed in the last half I read it in a four hour stretch sitting on my kitchen floor! Another quality book for the 8th Doctor, he gets to have a highly controversial relationship with Scarlette that borders on sensual. The introduction of Sabbath is incredible, so good was he he has almost appeared in every book since. The prose is highly intriguing, stuffed with facts I swallowed down with joy and it contains some of the most vivid imagery I've ever read in a book. Plus the shock event that sent ripples through fandom. This is Lawrence Miles' masterpiece.
Drawbacks: Occasionally too complicated, easy to get lost in if you're not paying attention.
23: The Plotters (Virgin 1st Doctor book)
Why is it so great: The depiction of the TARDIS crew is spot on and especially love Gareth Robert's take on William Hartnell's infectious first Doctor. The secondary characters spill off the page with wit and humour and the plot is rock solid. The dialogue is a joy and the amount of fun to be had here has not been topped by many books. I just can't say enough good things about this book.
22: Ghost Light (7th Doctor adventure)
Why is it so great: The most mature Doctor Who story ever broadcast also happened to be the last made. I would give this top marks just for Sophie Aldred's outstanding turn as Ace who goes through a range of emotions that would challenge an experienced actress but for a newcomer to telly her range is spectacular. The direction matches the macabre nature of the scripts and considering it is all set inside one house there are a striking number of gorgeous set pieces. Light is both scary and camp (hard to achieve) and McCoy delivers his best performance. Everything just rocks.
Drawbacks: Only that it is only three episodes long, I could have dealt with another episode of this creepy horror.
21: The Holy Terror (6th Doctor Big Finish
Why is it so great: Because Rob Shearman has written a spectacular script that deals with a number of weighty issues in a thought provoking and entertaining way. Because the performances are exceptional, especially Roberta Taylor who excels as the bitter and twisted Berengeria. Colin Baker gives another of his splendid audio performances and is aided by the talents of Robert Jezek as the very funny Frobisher and Sam Kelly who gives a heartbreaking turn as Eugene Tacitus. The ending just ripped my heart out until I was in tears.
Drawbacks: Get lost!
20: Inferno (3rd Doctor adventure)
Why is it so great: For it's convincing and utterly terrifying look at a world under military rule where even the Doctor's closest friends are murderers and liars. Jon Pertwee gives his best performance ever, brilliantly angry and distraught at the state of the parallel earth. It is also one of the very few occasions in the show's run where companions are used to stunning effect and the mirror universe Liz and the Brigadier are such brutal, horrible characters I fell in love with immediately! This is a seven part story that doesn't grab, that has cracking cliff-hangers and builds an impressive momentum throughout climaxing on the ultra dramatic sixth episode.
Drawbacks: The daft Primord make-up, its so very funny.
19: Bad Therapy (Virgin 7th Doctor book)
Why is it so great: Matt Jones writes a very personal story, being a practicing homosexual he writes a very involving look at gays in the 1950's and a group of lonely aliens. The plot is perfect to follow the breathtaking and devastating So Vile a Sin and the Doctor and Chris are given some of their best ever characterisation. I love Jack, the sweet gay boy who gets caught up in the Doctors adventures. A seductive book that works as both a character book and an emotional SF novel.
Drawbacks: Even I don't want to read about a poof who thinks the Doctor giving APR is tonguing him!
18: Chimes of Midnight (8th Doctor Big Finish
Why is it so great: Because the first time I listened to this I was quite alone in the half dark and scared out of my wits. The story has bags of atmosphere and it really got to me. The story is a really emotional one telling the tale of young Edith the scullery maid and she is a very memorable character indeed. In fact all the members of the household and the story gets more and more bizarre (and funny) (and scary) as it goes on. The 8th Doctor and Charley have never been better and Paul McGann and India Fisher give superlative performances especially in the last episode where he begs her not to take her life. Stunning in every respect.
Drawbacks: A bit complicated in places.
17: Fury from the Deep (2nd Doctor adventure)
Why is it so great: Because it is unfairly forgotten because it is one of the great missing stories. Just listening to this story is quite an experience. It is one of the scariest Doctor Who stories, highlighted by the censor clips that were recently discovered suggesting the show really was numbingly terrifying back then. It strikes that spine tingling balance between psychological horror (possession, expertly delivered by the deranged Robson) and gross out images (the very scary Oak and Quill gassing poor Maggie Harris). The departure of Victoria is woven into the script giving the effective horror story a real poignant finish. A terrific romp.
Drawbacks: It doesn't exist anymore!
16: Vengeance on Varos (6th Doctor adventure)
Why is it so great: Because it is a biting satire on all things television, it is the first classic adventure for the brilliant sixth Doctor, it gives Peri lots of exciting things to do, it has a stifling claustrophobic atmosphere, the cliff-hanger and last scene are as perfect as they ever got in Doctor Who. Want more? Okay, Martin Jarvis gives one of the best guest performances, Jason (phwoar) Connery spends most of the first episode with his top off, there are some wonderfully scary bits. And Sil, the repulsively lovable baddie with the infectious laugh.
Drawbacks: All those fans that wet themselves about the acid bath scene. Grow up guys.
15: Seeing I (BBC 8th Doctor book)
Why is it so great: A disturbing book in so many ways. Firstly it takes the loathsome 8th Doctor and Sam combo and makes them strikingly effective, splitting them up for most of the book and giving them effective storylines and forced to live three years apart from each other. The prose is gorgeous, Orman and Blum working together in style. The Doctor's spell in prison is as disturbing for the reader as it is for him. The teddy bear is so scary. Sam proves for once why she is an asset to the books. And the chapter detailing a year of her life is gorgeous.
Drawbacks: When they meet up again they aren't quite as effective.
14: The Massacre (1st Doctor adventure)
Why is it so great: Because it is one of the most mature and intelligent Doctor Who stories ever made. Because Hartnell gives a performance that really scares you as the Abbot and Peter Purves' underrated Steven is given the limelight and proves he's worth it. This is Doctor Who doing religion effectively with a blistering final episode that climaxes on Hartnell giving the most heart breaking speech about how alone he is in the universe. Not only that but the guest performances all work a beauty and Ann Chaplet makes an adorable companion. Her fate is shocking.
13: Anachrophobia (BBC 8th Doctor adventure)
Why is it so great: I personally love this. I've read it twice now and went away from it both times impressed with the intelligent, emotive and terrifying prose. The twisty-turny plot is filled to bursting with scenes that left me taking a breath (clockwork people! eugh!) and the book brilliantly shifts location two thirds in. Nothing is predictable and the danger to the Doctor Fitz and Anji feels very real here, highlighted by the Doctor's weak physical condition. How he survives this at all is a miracle giving that extra dramatic push. And the ending is a blinder, loved by most, loathed by a few but definitely controversial. I loved it.
Drawbacks: Occasionally slow in the first two thirds being set all inside one building.
12: Pyramids of Mars (4th Doctor adventure)
Why is it so great: For nostalgic reasons, this was the first Doctor Who story I ever saw and it had me hooked. And scared out of my wits. The production is as close to a feature film as the show ever got with lots of brilliant action bits (mummies stalking people over the English countryside) and a terrific bad guy in Sutekh (the silky voiced Gabriel Woolf gave six year old Joe nightmares!). Tom Baker's broody fourth Doctor was never better and he is ably supported by the delicious Lis Sladen as Sarah, still, I believe one of her best ever stories.
Drawbacks: The overdone Marcus Scarman make-up.
11: Jubilee (6th Doctor Big Finish adventure)
Why is it so great: Let's see, this very recent audio adventure has so much to offer, stunning performances from Colin Baker, Maggie Stables, Martin Jarvis and Roslyn Ayres. An excellent script from Rob Shearman that manages to be very, very funny and absolutely terrifying, often in the same bloody scene! The stabs at the Daleks are great and forgivable because the lone Dalek slave turns out to be the scariest (and best) portrayal of a Dalek since Genesis. The dialogue rocks and Nicholas Briggs does the story proud with some great music.
Drawbacks: People have said it's too silly, erm, its supposed to be! Don't you get it?
10: The Evil of the Daleks (2nd Doctor adventure)
Why is it so great: One of the best televised Doctor Who's ever with astonishing production values, a fantastic Dudley Simpson score, out of this world acting and a excellent set of scripts courtesy of the much underrated David Whitaker. This capped of season four with true style and although it had a fair few stabs season five really couldn't match anything of this quality. The inspired Doctor/Jamie lineup is given its best ever treatment (Jamie's aggressive scenes being Frazer Hines's best ever work on the show) and Troughton is a revelation. The cliff-hangers are brilliant and the last third with the introduction of the thunder voiced Emperor Dalek is flawless. Actually flawless is a good word for this story.
Drawbacks: Not really, the second episode (surviving!) is so good it is such an annoying tease.
9: The Crooked World (BBC 8th Doctor book)
Why is it so good: Because it's thoughtful, funny, clever, daring and entertaining. Because it had characters I really cared about and a world I would love to live in. Because Steve Lyons surprises after loads and loads of simply solid tales to finally deliver something this spectacular. Because the companions are used effectively and provide a number of great laughs. Because the story ends on a note of total ambiguity. Because the answers are clever. Because the prose is so effective. Because I enjoyed it so very much.
Drawbacks: Only the lack of the Doctor's involvement in the first half (more than made up for in the second half!)
8: Curse of Fenric (7th Doctor adventure)
Why is it so good: This is as close as to a movie as Doctor Who will ever get (and I'm including the TV Movie) with a production so good it makes you wonder why ever story couldn't look like this. It tips its hat at so many genres, romance, horror, period drama... and uses them all effectively. It has a musical score to die for and special effects that really convince. The monsters are just horrible, the creepy haemovores used to put the willies up me! The four episodes unfold at a fast pace but still have room for some astonishing set pieces such as the attack on the church by the haemovores. Sophie Aldred is absolutely incredible as Ace, one of the best ever companion performances. It scares, it shocks and it makes you giggle. It's great stuff!
Drawbacks: McCoy overacts horribly on occasion but even he can't stop this from being one of the most watchable Doctor Who stories ever.
7: The One Doctor (Big Finish 6th Doctor audio
Why is it so good: "Oh look another voyage around the English language!", "They're over excited fans!", "Disassemble! DISASSEMBLE!", "My coat can only be appreciated by somebody with a sharpened aesthetic sense" "Sharpened by what, a dose of mind altering drugs?", "Mel, will you marry me?" "Are you insane?" "You really know how to let a guy down gently.", "Because I'm a Bush and Bushes never do!", "Igno what? Talking to you is like arguing with a thesaurus!", "Oh no it's gobbled him up" "Doctor!" "Face it Mel... he's lunch" Buuuuurrrrppp!, "And a merry Christmas to all of you at home!" ...if you haven't got the idea yet this story is screamingly funny. It's still my favourite Big Finish production.
Drawbacks: Yeah, Chris Biggins, Clare Buckfield, Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford all have such great chemistry its a shame they couldn't do more stories together!
6: The Also People (Virgin 7th Doctor book)
Why is it so good: Quite simply the best thing to come out of the Virgin line, a book so good I've read it at least ten times and find something new to enjoy every time. The TARDIS line up (Chris, Roz, Benny and you know who) were never, ever written for better. Ben Aaronovitch creates a world so magical it is simply a joy to visit for the duration of this book and fills his pages with utter delights such as God and the carnivorous maggot ridden beaches. The dilemma with Kadiatu is beautifully handled and gives Benny some of her best ever passages. Its such a sedate book, so calm (even the climax were the killer is revealed is quite low key) you would expect it to bore you to tears but impresses more than those books filled with horror, gratuitous violence and swearing by simply being a gorgeous piece of writing. Such fun.
Drawbacks: It had to end.
5: Genesis of the Daleks (4th Doctor adventure)
Why is it so good: Davros as played by Michael Wisher is such an utter bastard in every way I am thoroughly hypnotised whenever he is on the screen. The high body count is justified in this dark tale of politics and morality, one of the most thoughtful stories ever with some outstanding dialogue. Tom Baker delivers a powerful performance for such a new Doctor firmly established by the end of the story and has plucky support from the gorgeous Ian Marter and Lis Sladen. Director David Maloney gives the story and extra polished look and makes sure every shot exudes tension and fear. At six episodes it never gets dull (and considering how many Dalek stories there already were that is amazing!) and the first and last episodes are possibly the best ever.
Drawbacks: With a bigger budget imagine how this would look.
4: Father Time (BBC 8th Doctor book)
Why is it so good: This book got me back into Doctor Who fiction in such a huge way, I was so blown away with how good this is I just had to buy more. I now own the entire collection!!! It's experimental Who at its all time best, about as far away from the original proposal as you can get and all the better for it. This book is written with a sensitive hand and the prose is to die for. It is one of those rare Doctor Who books you could give a non Who fan to read and they would love it. The book is full of such wonder, gorgeous characters, wonderful twists, a brilliant exploration of the new and improved 8th Doctor. And what a cover!
Drawbacks: Nadda, I loved every word of this book.
3: Revelation of the Daleks (6th Doctor
Why is it so great: Populated with some of the most vivid characters I've ever watched, this is one Colin Baker story I never, ever get tired of. The production is as sumptuous as Doctor Who ever got with the best location work (ooh that snowy landing still gives me goose bumps!) and FX (the glass Dalek). Davros is back and better than ever, played here by Terry Molloy he is just completely loopy and all the better for it (his insane laughter as he watches the Doctor in episode one is brilliant!). Nicola Bryant and Colin Baker make an engaging, relaxed team and share some quality moments (that wall...). This story has some of the grossest deaths ever including death by knife, extermination, hypodermic needle, bomb, gun... it has hysterical references to nose picking, drugs, alcohol and necrophilia... it is darker than night and funnier than most comedies. In fact its so bloody good it's not really Doctor Who at all.
Drawbacks: The Doctor's not in it enough but then we would be deprived of the beautifully observed characters.
2: Camera Obscura (BBC 8th Doctor book)
Why is it so great: Go read my review to find out why. It IS the best Doctor Who book I've ever read. It is so good it reminds you how mediocre most Who fiction is (especially the Past Doctor range!).
Drawbacks: Not enough Anji, although the bits she does get are fab!
1: Talons of Weng-Chiang (4th Doctor adventure)
Why is it so good: All the usual reasons, the exceptional detailed production, the tummy ticklingly way Robert Holmes conjures the atmosphere of Victorian London, the unbeatably funny characters, the scripts that are a delight just to read, the towering performances, the Doctor/Leela combination used to its advantage... but mostly because long after most of Doctor Who is forgotten people will still remember Talons of Weng-Chiang. A gift to the fans, something so beautiful we can hold up to all those mickey takers and goo "Ner-Ner-Ne-Ner-Ner!"
Drawbacks: Erm, the rat. Unfortunately.