Last year we waxed unusually lyrically about Keith Miller’s super book The Official Doctor Who Fan Club – possibly the best ever tome written about the children’s own series that adults maintain isn’t. Plus, it’s never had two up it.
Well, here’s some very welcome news, as Keith’s dropped us a line to say that Volume Two: The Tom Baker Years will soon be available to buy. As Keith says: “This is the second in a two volume set which features set reports from Carnival of Monsters, The Three Doctors, Planet of the Spiders, Genesis of the Daleks, Terror of the Zygons and Masque of Mandragora, with a full set of the very first Doctor Who fanzine, and facsimilies of the actual letters between the stars and production team of the show.”
Plus, it’s got a cover designed by Clayton Hickman!
Keith’s supplied us with two exclusive previews, see below. In return, we feel duty-bound to do this: Price: £16.99, published May 2013 – more details and orders at www.odwfc.com.
Yes, 2013 promises 12 months even more doused in the good Doctor than usual. That’s because 23 November will be the 50th anniversary of the show’s first-ever episode, which makes it one of the longest non-continuously-running children’s programmes in the world – or any other world!
It looks like being a year packed with Dr Who delights, but aside from all the appeals for lost episodes and talk of the show going “back to basics”/”being bigger and better than ever”/”in great shape for another non-continuous 50 years on the air”, what else might 2013 portend for the programme?
We asked this question of the TV Cream Dr Who Matrix Databank, and this is what it said:
1) The BBC will deny there were ever any plans to mark the anniversary with a live episode.
2) Some fans will claim the anniversary is actually 16 November, as that was when the first episode was originally scheduled for transmission in 1963.
3) There’ll be an unfounded rumble a former Dr Who companion has been questioned as part of Operation Yewtree.
4) The Five Doctors will be re-released as a special four-disc set in a 30th anniversary commemorative holographic Tardis-shaped tin, boasting “all-new extras” including yet another pissed-about-with version of the original story, plus a fan-made mini-drama about the day the Raston Warrior Robot did the electric boogaloo on Top of the Pops.
5) A Dr Who star will take part in Strictly Come Dancing*.
6) A Dr Who star will take over from Brucie on Strictly Come Dancing**.
7) Peter Davidson will appear live on The One Show to talk about the anniversary celebrations, but there will be controversy when he describes some of his episodes as “frankly, horseshit”.
8) Some fans will launch a campaign for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s new baby to be called Verity.
9) One Direction will record a Dr Who tribute called I Wanna Be Dr Who (Take You Round The Galaxy Tonight), but contractual complications will mean the promotional video features the boys wearing non-specific “fantasy” costumes while being chased by “Moon monsters”.
10) Tom Baker will have fuck all to do with anything.
11) John Whaite, the winner of the 2012 series of the Great British Bake Off, will appear in the special anniversary episode as himself, presenting Dr Who with a birthday cake.
12) New BBC Director-General Tony Hall will admit he “doesn’t watch the show” but “hopes Dr Who will continue travelling in time and space for another 50 years”.
13) The anniversary episode won’t be broadcast on 23 November due to last-minute scheduling issues.
Keith Miller has been a long-time friend of TV Cream – but an even longer-time friend of Doctor Who, as his brand-new, self-published book proves.
He was good enough to send us a copy, and we have to admit – with all due TVC-nonsense aside – it’s absolutely terrific. Granted, most of it looks like death (sorry, Keith) but it chronicles not only the birth of organised DW fandom, with all the attendant squabbles and nerdy turf wars, but also Keith’s own (and we can’t believe we’re going to say this without some sort of waspish caveat) coming of age. Impressive for a book which essentially has no narrative beyond picture captions.
Erm, that makes it sound like The Tardis Inside Out, and it’s really not.
So, what is it? In the main, it’s a reproduction of letters sent to Keith from Barry Letts’ secretary Sarah Newman, plus reproductions of every issue of the DWFC newsletter during the period.
It begins in 1972, when our hero (and he really is) is 13-years-old. For reasons that remain unclear, he becomes the secretary and de facto chairperson of The Official Doctor Who Fan Club – as endorsed by BBCtv. Can’t see Edward Russell sanctioning that today, eh readers? Edinburgh-based Keith then struggles to turn out monthly issues of his home-made mag, aided along the way by Sarah sending him stencils and synopses, and agreeing to cover postage costs via a laborious set-up wherein he drops off all copies of his latest effort to an office in BBC Scotland.
Honestly, it’s brilliant.
Because of the nature of their correspondence, we never see Keith’s letters, but it’s fun reading Sarah’s replies and filling in the gaps in the unfolding story. As time passes, the two build up quite a touching relationship; Sarah gently offers counsel when Keith’s father passes away and shares her frustrations at the rise of the Super Fan as Peter Capaldi – that Peter Capaldi – and pals proceed to make themselves pests to the Doctor Who production team, and commence on a grubby quest for Whovian power. There’s even a terrific bit where Keith frets that Sarah’s serious when she suggests he pops over to Glasgow to duff up the proto Malcolm Tucker.
Other highlights include Keith’s visits to London to see episodes of the show being filmed (first in the company of his mum, who takes a shine to Barry) and his various run-ins with Jon Pertwee who, when not cadging fags, is making his displeasure known at the amount of Hartnell and Troughton-related material in the nascent mag. Plus, Keith’s retelling of early Doctor Who stories. Who knew episode two of An Unearthly Child began with Ian fretting about what his landlady would say if he didn’t report back to his digs tout de suite?
This volume ends with the Third Doctor’s demise, and Keith being published in that year’s Doctor Who Annual from World Distributors.
With Keith’s permission, we’ve reproduced one of Sarah’s letters below (actually, it’s to Peter Capaldi), plus a particularly fine DWFC newsletter front page. But, seriously you should just get this book. A second volume covering the DWFC’s tussles with Tom Baker is promised. We hope to see it very, very soon. And, as someone once said: “Where there’s life…”
TV Cream’s very own Steve Berry (probably still best known for his face-on-a-time-tunnel-avatar which wowed the internet in 2006, plus his super TV Cream Toys book) has now launched his long anticipated and already heavily plugged (“Do you know a famous person who…?”) Dr Who charity book – Behind The Sofa. Yup, it’s now available for pre-order at http://behindthesofa.myshopify.com.
With all profits going to Alzheimer’s Research UK and brilliant illustrations provided by Doctor Who Magazine’s Ben Morris, it features over 100 celebrity memories of the children’s own programme that adults adore. Celebs featured include: Bill Oddie, Charlie Brooker, Charlie Higson, Chris Tarrant, Gary Russell, Jonathan Ross, Julian Glover, Konnie Huq, Lynda ‘If Barbara Knox’ Bellingham, Michael Grade, Nicholas Parsons and – holy shit! – Roland Rat.
Sadly, Boyd Hilton is in it too. But off-set by Wincey Willis.
Happy Dr Who day, pals. Here are our favourite 48 moments from the series so far…
48) “DON’T TURN AROUND!” (‘THE IMPOSSIBLE PLANET’, 2006)
It’s an oldie, but a goldie. Off-camera sinister voice addresses clearly-done-for Joe Ordinary, prompting everyone at home to shout: “Turn around!” That’s until said voice, sounding suspiciously like Tom Baker foe Sutekh (actor Gabriel Woolf), clarifies the situation: “If you look at me, you will die”. Ulp!
47) “NOOOOOOOOOO!” (‘THE TRIAL OF A TIME LORD’, 1986) The Doctor is dragged down into the depths of a shingle quicksand by a battery of demented waving arms. As his mighty girth is submerged, it’s camera up Colin Baker’s nostrils time to nail home this iconic cliffhanger.
46) “FOR FANS OF DOCTOR WHO THERE WILL BE A RUN OF OLD DOCTOR WHO STORIES ON BBC2 CALLED THE FIVE FACES OF DOCTOR WHO” (‘LOGOPOLIS’, 1981)
The moment has indeed been prepared for, as revealed over the end credits of Tom Baker’s swan-song – a repeat season! Turn over after Willo The Wisp to enjoy cavemen, Krotons and a Carnival of Monsters. A new generation of fans send off their SAEs to the Doctor Who Appreciation Society.
45) “SOMETIMES I FEEL I’VE GOT TO – NER NER – RUN AWAY” (‘THE END OF THE WORLD’, 2005)
Gay disco agenda ahoy! The Platform One monster parade ends with Lady Cassandra’s “iPod” (ha-ha, it’s a Wurlitzer!) blasting out “classical music” (ha-ha, it’s Soft Cell – Russell, you’re too much!). At which point Christopher Eccleston reveals his Doctor’s defining characteristic – dad-dancing.
44) “GETTING-A-BIT-HAIRY-IS-IT?” (‘ATTACK OF THE CYBERMEN’, 1985)
Does not compute! Brian Glover trash-talks the Cybermen in a mocking robotic voice. And gets the old crushing-fists-to-the-temple treatment in return. 43) “SOMEWHERE ELSE THE TEA’S GETTING COLD” (‘SURVIVAL’, 1989)
Doctor Who signs off our TV screens for 16 years (bar that Paul McGann film, obviously) via a hastily tacked-on voiceover intoned by Sylvester McCoy. “C’mon Ace,” says the Doc, “we’ve got work to do”. Unofficial spin-off videos, mainly.
42) “YOU CAN COVER THE WHOLE LOT IN BUTTER-CREAM!” (‘ALIENS OF LONDON’, 2005)
A space pig crash-lands in the Thames and the Doctor needs information. He turns to News 24, but is battling for the telly with one of Rose’s pesky relatives. Result: the channel changes to a Blue Peter cookery demo featuring Matt Baker and a spaceship cake. Lovely stuff!
41) “AND NOW BACK TO DOCTOR WHO… THE SERIES!” (ROLAND RAT THE SERIES, 1986)
Colin Baker’s Doctor interrupts the dying moments of the rodent’s show, to cue in his own adventures (which follow after). “Rubbish!” chips in Reggie the rat, narrowly missing a laser zap from the Time Lord. Critics, eh?
40) “ANOTHER SOFT CENTRE!” (DR WHO AND THE DALEKS, 1965)
They may be the true bastards of Earth as far as fans are concerned, but the two films made by horror merchants Amicus – which happen to concern the antics of a medical man named Who – have their moments. In this one, Roy Castle sets up an elaborate running gag involving petrified aliens, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, and good old ‘falling over’.
39) “THE CREAM OF SCOTLAND YARD” (‘GHOSTLIGHT’, 1989)
Foppish Victorian rotter Josiah Smith unleashes the show’s cruellest pun at the revelation effete baddy Light has reduced an innocent copper to primordial soup.
38) “YOUR BILE WOULD BE BETTER DIRECTED AGAINST THE ENEMY, DOCTOR!” (‘RESURRECTION OF THE DALEKS, 1984’)
Doctor Who essays Alien-style down ‘n’ dirty action-adventure licks, with a cast comprised of Chloe Ashcroft, Rodney Bewes, Dirty Den and Rula Lenska… together at last!
John Cleese and Tom Baker team-up for an in-house effort made to amuse BBC VT engineers. “Sign this for my little God son, would you?” says John, “Nice little kid, he’s blind”. “Have you got a pen?” returns Tom. “Oh, never mind, I’ll tell him you signed it”.
36) “IF YOU EVER LOVED ME, CHILD… KILL ME!” (‘REVELATION OF THE DALEKS’, 1985)
The ethics of euthanasia in Doctor Who! Boilerplate 1980s cannon-fodder Natasha finds what’s left of her dad – the improbably named Arthur Stengos – being transformed into a glass Dalek (of all things). Some genuinely gory moments later, she zaps him. Now cut to Alexi Sayle as – chortle! – a comedy hippy…
35) “ARE YOU IN CHARGE HERE?”/”NO, BUT I’M FULL OF IDEAS!” (THE HORROR OF FANG ROCK, 1977)
There’s only one thing worse than being trapped in a spooky lighthouse on a stormy night, and that’s being trapped in a spooky lighthouse on a stormy night with a bunch of Edwardian snobs who’ve got stiff collars and weak knees. Fortunately the Doctor is on top toff-baiting form.
34) THE WORLD MELTS (‘INFERNO’, 1970)
Someone’s been tampering with the Earth’s core – won’t they ever learn? – and the temperature is rising. Struggling to jumpstart a knackered TARDIS and make good his escape, the Doctor opens his garage door… to find a tide of lava heading up the drive. Roll titles! NB. This story includes the line: “What did you expect? Some sort of space rocket with Batman at the controls?”
33) “DON’T FORGET ME”/”OH SARAH – DON’T YOU FORGET ME!” (‘THE HAND OF FEAR’, 1976)
Parting is such sweet sorrow, as the Doctor’s sometime witchfinder-general William Shakespeare put it. Here Sarah Jane – dressed, apropos of nothing, as Andy Pandy – receives a send-off from her Gallifrey guardian, soaked in enough lip-trembling pathos to puncture even the stoutest of hearts. You’ll have to excuse us, we’ve something in our eye.
32) “WHAT DO YOU DO FOR AN ENCORE, DOCTOR?”/”I WIN!” (‘THE SEEDS OF DOOM’, 1976)
Having breezily plucked Sarah Jane – “my best friend” – from the clutches of silk-tongued glove-clad plant fetishist Harrison Chase by leaping through a skylight and essaying a spot of Marvel Comic-esque derring-do, a gun-toting (hooray!) Doctor reminds the leafy loon who’ll have the last laugh.
31) “MY HAND! IT’S STUCK!” (‘THE STONES OF BLOOD’, 1978)
Halfway through this story, the titular fossils go off to refuel. Finding a pair parked outside their tent flaps, Mike Baldwin’s future second wife (Jackie Ingram, played by Shirin Taylor) and, er, some bloke have their veins gratuitously drained. Suddenly that school trip to Avebury isn’t looking so appealing.
30) “FIT AS A FIDDLE, VICKI!” (‘CASTROVALVA’, 1982)
And this is me! Peter Davison displays an impressive talent for mimicry in the first throes of regeneration, channelling Troughton (“When I say run, RUN!”), Hartnell (“What would you do if you were me, boy, hmm?”) and Pertwee (er… well, he’s in there somewhere), all the while unravelling Tom’s scarf. Ooh! Allegory!
29) A FACTSHEET IS AVAILABLE (‘THE ROBOTS OF DEATH’, 1977)
The Doctor explains the principle of the TARDIS to a baffled Leela, Johnny Ball style, with two handy boxes and a hushed voice. “It’s a trick!”
28) “‘SWEET’?! EFFETE!” (‘THE TWIN DILEMMA’, 1984)
In the throes of his regulation post-regeneration tizzy, the sixth Doctor breaks with protocol by slagging off his pleasant, open-faced fifth incarnation, before storming off to spend the next three years dressed as Charlie Cairoli.
27) “WHO WAS THAT?”/”ME!”/”*ME!*” (‘THE THREE DOCTORS’, 1973)
Blobs of latex are threatening the fabric of the universe, so the Time Lords twiddle a knob and send the Doctor’s previous two incarnations to see how the new boy’s doing. Cue the kind of bickering that will serve Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton well through the next 10 years of conventions.
26) THE OLD AVENGERS (DALEKS: INVASION EARTH 2150 AD, 1966)
Wrong Doctor Peter Cushing and PC Bernard Cribbins, clad in fetching black PVC jumpsuits, escape ‘robotisation’ at the pincers of the Daleks by kung-fu kicking their way out of their copiously laminated underground base to the accompaniment of a swinging jazz soundtrack.
25) EXPERIMENTAL THEATRE WORKSHOP (‘WARRIOR’S GATE’, 1981) Doctor Who dabbled with a lot of ‘hard’ SF concepts in the early eighties, but nothing confused younger viewers quite as much as this metaphysical romp in E-Space. Trapped inside a decrepit banqueting hall in an abstract CSO’d wilderness, a bunch of sardonic Noel Edmonds lion men (the Tharils), a ‘time mirror’ and a pensionable K9, the Doctor opts out of heroics to sit on his arse munching gherkins.
24) “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” (BBC TRAILER, 1982)
It’s 1981 and a galaxy of BBC stars are here to bid Yuletide greetings to the nation: Kenny Everett (“Have a dynamite Christmas!”), the Tomorrow’s World team, accompanied by an it’s-all-thanks-to-British-knowhow giant Christmas pud, and, best of all, the TARDIS crew. And, hooray! Peter Davison does a neat bit of business with his hat to obscure Adric’s face, thus ensuring a perfect Christmas for the peoples of the universe.
23) “HAVE YOU HAD A FACE LIFT?”/”SEVERAL, SO FAR…” (‘THE DEADLY ASSASSIN’, 1976)
After spending aeons building up a sinister picture of the place in hushed tones, the Doctor finally touches down on Gallifrey – which turns out to be a pantomime cross between the House of Lords, Dad’s Army and the Sellafield visitors’ centre – to bandy insults with Gallifrey’s very own Nicholas Witchell, Runcible the Fatuous.
22) “YOU MY DEAR CAN’T POSSIBLY EXIST – SO GO AWAY!” (‘KINDA’, 1982)
Allegory and metaphor invade Who as Tegan dreams of Lou Beale then gets possessed by a bloke with a snake tattoo. Hundreds of fanboys stroke their beards and come to the only logical conclusion – Kate Bush must’ve written this one!
21) “IT’S THE END…” (‘LOGOPOLIS’, 1981)
Tom Baker falls off Jodrell Bank onto some unrealistic Astroturf, before merging with flaky-pastry-faced bandage bloke, The Watcher, and turning into Peter Davison. “So he was the Doctor all the time!” muses Nyssa, several weeks later, in a phoned-in overdub. And yet, for all that, achingly poignant.
20) “IT’S ABUNDANTLY CLEAR TO ANYONE WHO’S WATCHING I HAVEN’T ANY IDEA WHAT I’M DOING!” (THE PROGRAM, 1995)
“I may be the most brilliant scientist in the world,” reflects Jon Pertwee, “with two hearts and several hundred years of age, but I haven’t the faintest idea of what I’m doing here”. So let’s help – he’s playing the Star Wars-themed Dark Forces for a computer games show. “I press it on what now?” asks Pertwee, hopelessly. “‘Loading mission’. What happens on Loading Mission? Get me the Brigadier at once, he can maybe enlighten me!”.
19) FAN FICTION! (‘HUMAN NATURE’, 2007)
“I have written down some of these dreams in the form of fiction.” The Doctor, in the unwitting guise of human John Smith, dips a toe in the murky waters of fan fic, chronicling his adventures aboard a “blue box” in his Journal of Impossible Things. And to underline his superfan credentials, there’s the obligatory pencil-shaded montage of all the Doctors’ faces. Plus Paul McGann.
18) ATTACK OF THE CIDERMEN (BBC NEWS, 1975)
A local news reporter ferrets for signs of newly employed Tom Baker down Wookey Hole. “Oh, I don’t know, I can’t find Doctor Who anywhere!”. He finally catches up with the man traipsing into the boozer with Cybermen in tow. Perplexed local scratches his head, for top comedic pay-off.
17) “PARLARE THE CARNY?” (‘CARNIVAL OF MONSTERS’, 1973)
Having finally been let out of his bedroom by the Time Lords, following a grounding on Earth for three years, Jon Pertwee’s Doctor ventures back into space… to trade homosexual slang with Mr Partridge off of Hi-De-Hi! – who’s wearing a transparent bowler hat.
16) “THE LOCH NESS MONSTER!” (‘SCHOOL REUNION’, 2006)
In a bid to assert their supremacy in the companion stakes, the feuding Sarah Jane and Rose embark on a no-holds-barred game of monster Top Trumps. “Mummies!” “I’ve met ghosts!” “Robots, lots of robots!” “Slitheen! In Downing Street!” Time for Miss Smith to play that killer Weetabix card from ‘Terror of the Zygons’. “Seriously?!”
15) “SIX BUFFALOS A DAY IT ATE, PLUS TWO WHEELBARRLOWLOADS OF COCONUTS” (ANIMAL MAGIC, 1979)
En route between the Acton Hilton and the BBC Club, Tom Baker makes time to pop in on Animal Magic’s 400th edition, waxing lyrical to camera about the Fendahl, Krynoid, and Shrievenzale. In stocks! “The Wirrn – it had a sting so fierce, it could’ve done an elephant in five seconds.”
14) “NO MY DEAR DOCTOR, YOU MUST DIE! DIE DOCTOR! DIE!” (‘THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI’. 1984)
The best regeneration ever as Peter Davison – not quite upstaged by Nicola Bryant’s bosom – takes his bow. How can you go wrong with a psychedelic kaleidoscope of companion cameos (“What was it you always told me, Doctor? Brave heart?”) and some triumphal taunting from that moustache-twirling maverick, The Master. Enter Colin Baker. “You were expecting someone else?” Well, hoping, maybe.
13) AUTONS TAKE EALING BROADWAY (‘SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE’, 1970)
The Doctor is exiled to the seventies (UNIT, cloaks, laboratories, trimphones) in style, with one of the most sinister Who sequences of all time, as a troupe of nattily-attired shop dummies come to life in an Ealing department store window and ruthlessly mow down a bus queue. The stuff of nightmares. Plus, it’s nice to see the old Currys logo.
12) “I AM THE NUCLEUS OF THE SWARM!” (‘THE INVISIBLE ENEMY’, 1977)
Sick Doctor has miniaturised clones of self and Leela injected into his bloodstream to fight virus, romp fetchingly about among polystyrene blood cells and generally rip off that film with Racquel Welch in. Seizing its chance, the virus’s tatty king prawn-ish nucleus gets magnified to giant size, then spends the rest of the episode repeatedly bigging itself up like it was the Fresh Prince or something. We heard you!
11) “ARE YOU MY MUMMY?” (‘THE EMPTY CHILD’, 2005)
“Please let me in.” Brrrr. Ringing telephones, air raids and a scary, scary kid in a gasmask. The nation collectively remembers this programme could be seriously disturbing, while kids get a new playground catchphrase. The moment you knew Who was back for good.
10) “YES I’M RATHER LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING IT M’SELF” (NOEL’S HOUSE PARTY, 1993)
What force for good could unite five incarnations of the Doctor? Noel Edmonds, obviously! To pay tribute, Jon Pertwee materialises on Noel’s House Party where he introduces part one of Children in Need’s Who-meets EastEnders skit, ‘Dimensions in Time’ (“I’m in it y’know!”). “I heard he was thick,” he says of the TV legend in an acid aside to camera. “I thought they were talking about his waist!”
9) “K-9!” (K-9 AND COMPANY, 1981)
First ever Who spin-off, features Elisabeth Sladen as breathless journo Sarah Jane Smith providing the titular ‘Company’ to the Doc’s robot dog. The show’s blessed with a fantastically hopeless title sequence, featuring the metal mutt perched on a dry stone wall chirruping, “K-9!” while The Guardian-reading SJ – with trackie-top draped around her neck – pounds country lanes. And, ooh, alfresco typing!
Click to read about the spin-offs they should have done
8) “THE STAIRS!” (‘REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS’, 1989)
This one got Sylvester McCoy a positive write-up in music inkie Sounds, of all things. Faced with a Dalek in the cellar, the Doctor does the obvious and legs it up the stairs. Phew! Except the metallic bastard follows him up – albeit very slowly. ‘Mac’, and a fleet of newspaper cartoonists despair.
7) “EN GARDE!” (‘THE SEA DEVILS’, 1972)
You’ve gotta love Jon Pertwee. He was always the Doctor most likely to hold a cracking cheese ‘n’ wine or give a hamper at Christmas. His bon viveur credentials come to the fore during a sword fight with the evil Time Lord beard-wearer, the Master. While flashing blades, the Doc takes a moment out to chomp on a big sandwich. Let’s brunch!
6) “NEXT TIME, I SHALL NOT BE SO LENIENT!” (‘THE ANDROIDS OF TARA’, 1978)
Bested by the Doc, the naughty Count Grendel gets off this ace riposte as he makes good his escape. As if that wasn’t fantastic enough, this story also features the line: “Would you mind not standing on my chest, my hat’s on fire”, plus the series’ worst-ever monster (and that’s a feat) in the form of the Taran Wood Beast – somewhere between a troll doll and Bill Bailey.
5) “IS THIS THE PLANET SHEPHERD’S BUSH?” (WOGAN, 1986)
On the evening of Doctor Who’s return to telly following a heinous Michael Grade-enforced 18-month pit stop, no less a figure than Sir Terence of Wogan steps forth from the TARDIS to duel with a monster (“You’re a Mandrel, aren’t you? I’d know you anywhere!”) as a prelude to a ribald chat with Colin Baker. “Is it true, like many actors, you have your shibboleths and superstitions?” ventures Tel. “Is shibboleths a posh word for knickers?” replies Col.
4) “HE MUST BE MADE TO… SUFFER FOR OUR PAST… DEFEATS!” (‘EARTHSHOCK’, 1982)
After an episode’s worth of dicking about in caves, a Mexican stand-off between his-and-her androids and the usual stiff upper-cliché troopers, we finally get the big baddies-pulling-the-strings reveal. And it’s the fucking Cybermen! Back after a seven-year break from our screens! Fists a-clenched, their plans for dominion over something or other will not be denied… But let’s have a quick trawl through old Doctor Who clips on their cyber-scope first.
3) “DON’T BLINK!” (‘BLINK’, 2007)
Not only did it prove current day ‘Doctor lite’ stories needn’t consist of Peter Kay gurning, ‘Blink’ also just happened to be one of the best Who tales of all time, with a beautifully simple concept, and, in Sally Sparrow, the best companion the Time Lord never had. Most importantly, with that superfluous coda (a montage of stone figures mixed in with Tennant’s advice you really shouldn’t shut your peepers) it gave a generation of kids a lifelong fear of statues. Good work!
2) “I BRING SUTEKH’S GIFT OF DEATH TO ALL HUMANS” (‘PYRAMIDS OF MARS’, 1975)
A crusty Egyptian god has been woken up, and understandably he’s not happy. Deciding to take revenge on, ooh, the whole human race, a masked figure in a black cowl is dispatched to deliver the eponymous cheery present to whoever gets in his way. Said gift is duly conveyed… via a pair of smoking hands, a sibilant snarl (actor Gabriel Woolf, see 48) and a spot of strangulation. A nation shudders at the most chilling moment in Who history.
1) “AFTER ALL, THAT’S HOW IT ALL STARTED” (‘THE FIVE DOCTORS’, 1983)
Fin de siecle stuff from the 20th birthday reunion, as the united Doctors brave the slight inclines of Blaenau Ffestiniog to defeat both onscreen Children in Need captions and scheming Time Lord despot Borusa in the Game of Rassilon (suitable for ages 8 to 800. Raston Warrior Robot sold separately). Peter Davison packs off his predecessors into their TARDISes – “I’m definitely not the man I was… thank goodness” – and then, clearly impressed, Tony Britton’s ex-wife off of Don’t Wait Up slips her arm through his and anoints the Doctor Gallifrey’s new president. But not for him the rigours of office. Thus the cricketing cavalier turns fugitive once more. “You mean you’re deliberately choosing to go on the run from your own people in a rackety old TARDIS?” pouts companion Tegan. “Why not?” grins the wet vet, showing off his acting chops with some fine ‘out of breath’ work. “After all, that’s how it all started.” Already great, the moment becomes genius when followed by a snazzy theme tune mash-up, mixing the original sixties Delia Derbyshire oscillating oddity with Peter Howell’s energetic slab of eighties electronica. Ah, we wish Doctor Who was on a birthday every week…
So, rumour is that the Daleks will be making an appearance in this year’s Dr Who after all. To celebrate – cos it is worth celebrating – TV Cream’s done a nice little deal with Skaro’s finest to supply you with some suitably grating Dalek sounds for all your PC’s functions.
Yup, everything from a natty start-up thingy, to a ‘you’ve got e-mail’-type message has been laid down for you by those preposterous pepper pots.
We’ve provided both MP3 format and WAV for you to download. And so…
Just what is going on with the nation’s favourite Saturday night curtain-drawing, National Grid-spiking telly institution?
There’s talk of a “hiatus”, rumours of bad blood between the show’s head nabob and the BBC, uncertainty about when the thing will be back in production, and even the suggestion its stars want out.
But enough about So You Think You Can Dance (yes, you knew that was coming).
What of all this gossip about Dr Who?
To wit, the gossip we’re about to feed through our Dr Who Fact-Checker, an app newly-developed for the TV Cream Matrix Databank?
Let’s see whether there’s any truth behind the latest rumours doing the round(el)s.
1) Dr Who has been axed
Everybody take a deep breath – and that includes, in the words of Sue Cook, the “freaks”. Seeing as Dr Who is the BBC’s chief moneyspinner, it will surely only be dumped when it ceases to be profitable. And even those Tardis-shaped straight-from-the-oven edible pastries are, as far we know, still selling like hot cakes. Verdict: FALSE!
2) Dr Who is being moved to the autumn
We’re not sure why there’s so much fuss being made about this. It’s already happened. The next series – and yes, that is the right description – of Dr Who will air later this year, long past the vernal equinox. Verdict: TRUE!
3) Dr Who has fallen out of favour at the BBC
Perhaps the corporation certainly doesn’t look upon the show with as much reverence as it used to. But we happen to think that’s a good thing, as it means those running the show have to work harder to persuade the suits that Dr Who is still new, fun and exciting. Well, that’s our theory. Besides, some people have always hated Dr Who. The Meddling Monk for one. Verdict: INVALID QUESTION!
4) Amy and Rory are leaving Dr Who
It’s about time the Tardis’s own Terry and June moved on. Especially as it’d be rather nice for Mrs Rory (and for us) not to have to see her husband die another six times before Michelmas. Verdict: TRUE (HOPEFULLY)!
5) Steven Moffat is leaving Dr Who
We don’t think that Press Gang reunion episode has been commissioned yet, so there’s still nothing for Moffat that’s truly worth leaving Dr Who for. Besides, he’s already shown that, unlike his predecessor, it’s possible to look after Dr Who while simultaneously shepherding another non-Who hit series on to our screens. And yes, we certainly wouldn’t mind a Sherlock Christmas special rather than a Dr Who one this year. Verdict: FALSE!
6) The Doctor who gets shot by the astronaut is the doppelganger from that creepy monastery who the real Doctor decides to kill off because of all the enemies he is creating around the galaxy and the person in the astronaut suit is a young River Song which is why the old River Song’s bullets do not have any effect and is why River Song is in prison to maintain the pretence that the Doctor is dead.
7) Dr Who is a real person
This is correct, and not because the Doctor is “part of all of us” or “part of the fabric of time” or some such bollocks. No, according to something we were watching the other day, not only is Dr Who real, but his name is actually Dr Who and he is an Earth-born scientist and inventor*. Verdict: TRUE!
9) Dr Who’s Tardis is bigger on the inside than the outside
How many times?! Like that portaloo in The Bluetones’ video for Solomon Bites The Worm, Dr Who’s spaceship exists in two places at the same time. To be tediously technical, the interior is in one dimension while the exterior mooches about inside another dimension. It is not a big box inside a little one, which means, among other things, Matthew Waterhouse was wrong in titling his autobiography Blue Box Boy. Verdict: FALSE!
10) 1980s ‘protest’ single Doctor In Distress is being re-recorded by, among others, Kate Thornton and Lizo Mzimba
We’re investigating this tantalising prospect. Look out for more news later this week. Verdict: LET’S ALL ANSWER HIS S.O.S!
*Come come, you should all (not just the freaks) know to what we are referring.
In short, he (he being Steven Clark, aged 51) is alleging the BBC copied the concept and design of Davros from a drawing he entered into a competition run by TV Action magazine three years before the dodgem car-dwelling dictator made its first appearance on screens.
The man’s proof? A copy of the aforementioned sketch he says he has only just rediscovered but which, given it predates Davros’ debut, can only mean he is right and the Beeb is very much in the wrong.
Well, we were quite struck by this revelation here at TVC Towers. So struck, in fact, that we began to wonder what else the BBC may have plagiarised during its televising of the good Doctor’s intergalactic adventures.
Imagine our amazement when, after just five seconds of wondering, we discovered a number of shocking similarities between some of the most recognisable motifs of the show and some of the most recognisable motifs of, well, life in general.
Take Dr Who’s spaceship Tardis. We think it bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain kind of telephone box (below left) prevalent in Britain a whole FIVE YEARS before Dr Who as an early evening entertainment TV series was born:
Not convinced? How about this pair of images. The Dalek is the one on the right:
Still not sure? Well here’s the clincher. The image below right is taken from the Dr Who adventure The Web of Fear, broadcast in 1968.
But the image below left is taken from a tunnel on the London Underground, the first section of which opened for the public ONE HUNDRED AND FIVE YEARS EARLIER!
Good grief, is there anything in Dr Who not lifted from an aspect of popular culture and society dating back a century and a half?
Heavens, even Colin Baker’s “totally tasteless” frock coat was almost identical to a fancy dress outfit TV Cream wore in a primary school pageant in 1979!
But wait. It gets worse. For it seems that the very bricks and mortar of Auntie Beeb herself do not escape a change of copyright theft, as witnessed by this piece of paper drawn by none other than TV Cream’s great uncle during the winter of 1947!
Rest assured we have already been in contact with our lawyers, whose whoops of laughter on hearing our case show just how much they are looking forward to pursuing this action unto the highest court in the land.
Yes, it’s time to put Dr Who on trial – for its life!
It’s a Sunday night, so time for another excerpt from the big buff-coloured folder entitled ‘TV Cream Failed Pet Projects’.
This one hails from 2007, when we were getting excited about 10 years of TV Cream, and formulating plans for a special ‘Decannual’ (we just made that up!) to celebrate a glorious decade of easy, uncritical nostalgia. In the event, we got too distracted with just chanting “10 more years!” a lot, and never progressed beyond what you’re about to see here (oh, and a half-finished page detailing Colin Baker’s cameo on TOP GEAR).
So, here it is, an interview we did with Dr Who Peter DaviDson circa 2006 (we think), written up – cos we thought it was grabbier – as a first-person piece. Apologies for the main serif font, by the way. Dunno what we were thinking.
You know the drill, click on the images below to see each spread in their full glory. Or, if you can’t read it in our fancy pop-up, right-click on the text links.
TV Cream is making available some extra box-out blarney, to accompany The Greatest Soap in the Galaxy feature (an exploration of how much Doctor Who owes to the world of soap) in this month’s Doctor Who Magazine.
So far we’ve learnt all about Jupiter Moon on BSB and the uncanny correlation between Doctor Who and Crossroads. For this final instalment, we reveal what would happen if we swapped characters from sci-fi to soap, and back again…
And we prove it by switching DW stalwarts with their soapy counterparts, and placing each in a well-worn tableaux of the genre…
SWAPPING: The Face Of Boe (The End Of The World/New Earth/Gridlock) andStan Ogden (Coronation Street)
The arrival of THE FACE OF BOE at 13 Coronation Street raised eyebrows on the cobbles, but the double-glazed deity soon made himself at home amid the flying ducks and ‘muriel’, forging a much-loved trio with Hilda and lodger Eddie Yeats. He struggled when he attempted to take over Stan’s window-cleaning round, due to the fact that he was a window himself. Nonetheless, rumours persisted every time he was seen up a ladder at 19 Inkerman Street. A nation mourned when he breathed his last and Hilda wept over the glass, but there was some comfort to be taken from his final prophecy. “You are not alone,” he murmured… and indeed it wasn’t long before ‘Slim Jim’ Eddie found love on the CB airwaves with Marion ‘Stardust Lil’ Willis.
STAN OGDENtook to his role as a wandering cosmic lummox with surprising aplomb, travelling from planet to planet to dispense his brand of quiet-spoken wisdom (tips for the 3.10 at Haydock and how to get compensation from the council after tripping over a paving stone, mainly) acquired through billions of years of lead-swinging. Freed from the curler-clad tyranny of his other half, Stan cast a roving eye through the galaxy, even sharing an improbable assignation with a certain time-travelling minx. “Ee, what’s that psychic lipstick taste of?” “Spoilers, Stanley, spoilers!”
SWAPPING:The Controller (The Sun Makers) and Mike Baldwin(Coronation Street)
THE CONTROLLER‘s arrival at Baldwin’s Casuals didn’t go down well with the bolshie workforce. “An ongoing insurrectionary situation would not be acceptable to my management, Ivy!” roared the bushy-browed boss. Ever the stickler for accurate accountancy, the Plutonian kept a stern eye on Emily Bishop’s book-keeping, but after a lucrative order from Usurius Fashions fell through, the company faced bankruptcy and the he reverted to his natural state. “Eh chuck, he’s turned into seaweed!” cackled Vera Duckworth. “I haven’t seen anything like that since I washed our Jack’s vest!”
MIKE BALDWIN soon took to his new role as the ruthless overlord of Pluto, even if he never managed to find somewhere that served a decent Scotch and a Panatella. Alas, the fun-sized lothario didn’t get up to much romance in his Megropolis bachelor pad. “Bleedin’ ‘ell, you seen some of those Undercity birds? Make Bet Lynch look like Brigitte Bardot!” Still, at least his new position of authority ensured there were no more of those unwelcome visits from the VAT man, and those miniature suns in orbit around the planet kept his luxurious tan topped up.
SWAPPING:Pigbin Josh (The Claws of Axos) and Seth Armstrong (Emmerdale)
PIGBIN JOSH slotted perfectly into Beckindale life as resident bumpkin, duelling with Alan Turner, working as a gamekeeper for NY Estates and politely failing to mention the blatant homoerotic tension between Amos Brearly and Mr Wilks at the Woolpack. So, nothing changed, really. NB: Witnessed the 1993 air disaster from the safe vantage point of a hole in an icy lake, and essayed excellent jaw all a-dangle reactions. Ditto Malandra Burrows song spots. Body later sapped of all energy by Kim Tate.
SETH ARMSTRONG arrived on the doorstep of the Nuton Power Complex to pit his comedy yokel chops (some textbook bike-work from the boys at HAVOC, by the way) against the golden-skinned gatecrashers from Axos. Alas for poor Seth, after he discovered the invaders’ craft, he was captured and analysed. “This specimen is valueless,” declared the effete extra-terrestrials. “And that woolly hat has so got to go.”
SWAPPING: Romulus and Remus (The Twin Dilemma) and Caroline and Christina Alessi (Neighbours)
ROMULUS and REMUS ruffled a few feathers on their arrival in Ramsay Street, not least when the bowl-headed boffins insulted Des Clarke (“Do you wish us to respect a fool?”). But in true Neighbours tradition, the tabard-clad teens (“Tunics by KAMIZOLE”) soon became pillars of the Erinsborough community, mounting a three-dimensional backgammon tournament in the Coffee Shop and nobbling an attempt by Joe Mangel to fix the winner. Unfortunately, their pop career proved somewhat less successful, the Stock/Aitken/Waterman-produced – erm – ‘Wespectable’ stalling at number 54.
CAROLINE and CHRISTINA ALESSIsoon made themselves at home in the pastel-hued Sylveste household, not least due to its similarity to Madge Bishop’s front room. But it soon became apparent the brunette bombshells were not the intellectual equal of their counterparts (“Equations? Sounds a bit too much like doing the books at Lassiters!”) Further strife arrived when the twins were beamed aboard Mestor’s base on Titan 3 (“Eurgh, you’re even slimier than Paul Robinson!”).
SWAPPING: Vislor Turlough (Mawdryn Undead to Planet of Fire) and Nick Cotton (EastEnders)
TURLOUGH was dispatched to Albert Square on a mission by a dark, shadowy figure (Mr Papodopulous) to bump off Dot Cotton after she kept pestering him for a rise at the laundrette. The overgrown schoolboy initially attracted the derision of the residents of the Square (“Oi, aren’t you late for Latin?” mocked Pete Beale), but soon found himself at home in E20, even briefly joining The Banned on keyboards (before falling out with Harry in a row about left-wing politics). After his attempt to kill Dot with a rock was foiled by a minor gas explosion in Turpin Road, Turlough began to empathise with his intended target (“It’s like what the good book says, Turlough, love thy neighbour”) and abandoned his mission, enjoying a brief stint as a barman at the Dagmar, before returning to Trion.
NICK COTTON seemed like an improbable recruit to the TARDIS crew (“’Ere, this is a better way to travel than Ozcabs!”) and so it proved, as he attempted to get his hands on those bags of gold dust the Doctor keeps in the time-ship’s ottoman. Fortunately Tegan foiled his bid to cook up dinner and poison the Time Lord in the process (“Call that a well-prepared meal?” snapped the gobby Aussie) and Nasty Nick soon hit the Time Vortex again, where for a time he teamed up with an equally satanic looking cohort (“’Ello Ma…ster”).
TV Cream is making available some extra box-out blarney, to accompany The Greatest Soap in the Galaxy feature (an exploration of how much Doctor Who owes to the world of soap) in this month’s Doctor Who Magazine.
Yesterday we learnt all about Jupiter Moon, the short-lived sci-fi soap on BSB’s Galaxy channel. This time we look at the uncanny crossover twixt ‘Who and Ver ‘Roads…
The programme launches in an early evening slot and, defying all expectations, goes on to run for 26 years.
The series soon becomes famous for its trademark cliffhangers, and comedians trade in jokes about its wobbly sets.
Unfortunately, to the anger of fans, many of those early episodes no longer exist in the archives.
The programme launches in an early evening slot and, defying all expectations, goes on to run for 24 years.
The series soon becomes famous for its trademark cliffhangers, and comedians trade in jokes about its wobbly sets.
Unfortunately, to the anger of fans, many of its early episodes no longer exist in the archives.
By now, younger viewers regularly fled behind the sofa at the first sight of the famous time tunnel.
One of the programme’s most iconic figures, Davros, regularly appears gliding around the universe in a wheelchair.
The series becomes indelibly linked with an iconic woolly garment.
K9 makes a cameo appearance on Larry Grayson’s Generation Game.
By now, younger viewers regularly fled behind the sofa at the first sight of the famous ‘ATV Colour’ ident.
One of the programme’s most iconic figures, Sandy Richardson, regularly appears gliding around the West Midlands in a wheelchair.
The series becomes indelibly linked with an iconic woolly garment.
Larry Grayson makes a cameo appearance as a chauffeur at Meg’s wedding.
Facing falling ratings, the series gets a massive revamp, featuring glossy new titles and a radical new arrangement of the theme tune.
Victoria Wood memorably parodies the series in a ruthlessly effective pastiche.
Fans are stunned when Adric is killed and the programme memorably ends with the credits accompanied by silence.
The programme’s biggest star – Tom Baker – quits amid much acrimony, exiting the programme after falling from a radio tower.
Facing falling ratings, the series gets a massive revamp, featuring glossy new titles and a radical new arrangement of the theme tune.
Victoria Wood memorably parodies the series in a ruthlessly effective pastiche.
Fans are stunned when Arthur Brownlow is killed and the programme memorably ends with the credits accompanied by Wings’ arrangement of the theme tune.
The programme’s biggest star – Noele Gordon – quits amid much acrimony, exiting the programme after a Bonfire Night fire at the motel.
The show returns to our screens after 16 years and, thanks to a combination of superb casting, thrilling plots and brilliant special effects, returns to the top of the ratings.
The series returns to our screens after 13 years… and is ditched after 18 months to make way for reruns of Catchphrase.
On sale today, Doctor Who Magazine – for some reason – has unleashed a soap opera-themed special.
Taking up an indecently large chunk of what many online fans will declare “Worst. Issue. Ever.” (as if that bunging-in-full-stops trope was still quite the thing) is The Greatest Soap in the Galaxy, an exploration of how much Doctor Who owes to the world of soap. It features interviews with Gareth Roberts, Mark Gatiss, Rupert Laight and Graeme Harper, plus some daffy box-out fun.
Ah, daffy box-out fun…
TV Cream happens to know that the article was submitted with a surfiet of DB-OF, and thus, in agreement with DWM, this week we’re presenting, over the next three days, the bits they didn’t have room for exclusively on TV Cream.
Here’s the first…
Starring that girl, y'know, who was also in Crossroads
Doctor Who might be the greatest soap in the galaxy, but to date, there has only been one attempt at producing a thrice-weekly, 52-weeks-a-year sci-fi soap on British television.
It was called Jupiter Moon, and it was the flagship drama of BSB, the satellite broadcaster that, 20 years ago, took on the might of Rupert Murdoch’s Sky, beaming five new channels of films, entertainment, sport, music and documentaries to Earth via the miracle of the squarial.
For a generation of Doctor Who fans, this mini-Pharos Project now holds a strange, nostalgic allure. If you had a squarial screwed to the side of your house, it meant access to the first ever re-run of every remaining DW story, in order, from start to finish, one episode a week (an endeavour that, if BSB had survived, would have taken until around 2001 to complete).
Not to mention the Doctor Who Weekend of September 1990, with the exciting prospect of Children’s BBC alumnus Debbie “Helloooo!” Flint and JNT linking Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150AD and interviewing Terrance Dicks (BSB was so big on the Time Lord, it even named its satellite after a classic Doctor Who story, Marco Polo. Or at least, we like to think that’s the reason.)
But BSB felt its entertainment channel, Galaxy, needed a soap opera if it was to compete with the BBC and ITV, and commissioned former Crossroads producer William Smethurst to create one. What he came up with, however, proved light years (literally) away from Walford and Weatherfield.
A Did You See?-style pasting is cued up...
Smethurst’s elevator pitch was: “The loves, passions and courage of the students and crew of a space polytechnic as it ventures through the universe in search of scientific discoveries.” Set 60 years in the future, Jupiter Moon was to follow the adventures of the Ilea (a clandestine tribute to the recently abolished Inner London Education Authority), in orbit above the moon of Callisto.
“There’s no little green monsters at all,” a slightly defensive Smethurst reassured a dubious audience. “We’ve taken a group of people – young people as they are today, with their domestic troubles, love affairs and so on – and put them in a hostile and challenging environment.”
The notion of a celestial soap seemed to chime with the brave new world of television from space. Smethurst’s relentless pursuit of realism extended to commissioning British Aerospace to calculate an orrery for the positions of the Jovian moons in 2050, and hiring a choreographer to predict the dance fashions of 2050AD (“Probably a little more outrageous, but not that different”).
Maintaining BSB’s enthusiasm for all things Doctor Who, the cast featured Terry Molloy, the 1980s incarnation of Davros, as “old space lag” Pegleg Johnson, alongside the likes of Lucy Benjamin (later to become Lisa Fowler in EastEnders) and Anna Chancellor. The crew of the Ilea also included a character called Philippe Gervais, named after Ricky Gervais (no, really), whose partner Jane Fallon worked as associate producer on the series.
The script team, meanwhile, included Ben Aaronovitch, fresh from writing Remembrance of the Daleks and Battlefield, who contributed one of Jupiter Moon‘s biggest storylines, “the murder trap embedded in the Achilles files of the Michelangelo Expedition” (it says here).
And Aaronovitch’s involvement raises an interesting hypothetical question: if Doctor Who had been reborn as a soap opera in the 1990s, might it have looked something like Jupiter Moon?
If it had been given the same budget, then the answer could very well have been: yes. Unfortunately. For the truth is, Jupiter Moon really wasn’t very good.
... Led by Douglas Adams!
“I’m afraid the thing is absolutely awful. It’s unbelievably bad. I sat there cringing in horror at what was going on,” lamented Douglas Adams on BBC2′s Did You See…? in April 1990.
“You have absurd things to remind you where you are – in case you haven’t been tipped off by these appalling sets that look as if they’d have been rejected by Doctor Who,” noted the former Who script editor in a fit of mild disloyalty, “where somebody says, ‘I promise I’ll be very careful… I promise I’ll be the most careful man in the universe!’”
It’s tempting to suggest that Jupiter Moon’s fatal flaw was that sci fi fans don’t like soap, and soap fans don’t like sci fi, but Russell T Davies, Gareth Roberts and the rest have blown that theory out of the water.
Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that if you like sci fi, you don’t really want it to be soap. It’s tough enough to pull off the everyday adventures of space folk, even when you have a lead character as compelling as the Doctor. Nobody really wanted to see Nyssa, Tegan and Adric bickering inside the TARDIS, for instance, when they could be outside having adventures.
Jupiter Moon, however, suffered from a distinct shortage of compelling characters, and despite enticing Who-style titles like The Fire Of Io, the average episode substituted a lot of Blake’s 7-esque looking at screens and shaky bridge-under-attack camerawork in lieu of genuine adventure.
And setting the story 60 years in the future meant it was near impossible to identify with the everyday elements of the programme, not least thanks to scripts dressed up in lots of “meet me at 13:30 in the Dome” space chat.
Failing both as sci-fi and soap, Jupiter Moon reached the end of its mission in December 1990, when the Starship BSB was finally shot down by the rebel space pirates of the Sky empire. Now hang on, that sounds like a really good idea for a sci fi soap…
Atten-shun! It’s a PICTURE BOX special investigation, into the photographic habits of one Alistair Gordon Chunky Splink Lethbridge Hyphen-or-no-Hyphen Stewart of the Government’s Killing Aliens Division, UNIT! And if you ever thought the Brig was a bit of a Colonel Blimp character, think again – it’s Colonel Blink, stuffing up not one but three Doctor Who photoshoots circa 1970, by failing to have his eyes open at the all important “cheese” moment. Damn his optics!
Here’s the next piece of evidence….
C’mon Alistair, one more try…
Oh, for the love of…! Dunno about UNIT. More like nit!
The filming for this year’s Dr Who Christmas special – “the biggest and best yet”* – might very well be over.
The thoughts of its production team may well have turned to assembling next year’s seri… er, two mini-series.
But what if this recent invention were not, well, a recent invention and was instead a tradition winding back decades?
What possible delights and diversions may have been thrown up in the course of notional Dr Who Christmas specials in the 60s, 70s and 80s?
Here are five such episodes that, in an alternate reality, were the biggest and best festive TV events of their day:
1967: A VERY BLEAK MIDWINTER
by Dennis Spooner
Dr Who, Jamie and Victoria materialise in present-day London on Christmas Eve, and are shocked to find the city deserted. Jamie spots a newspaper with the headline CHRISTMAS IS CANCELLED. “Look,” he says, “Christmas has been cancelled!”
The trio journey through the city meeting a collection of eccentrics, including a beat poet (JOHN LENNON), a jazz pianist (DUDLEY MOORE) and an enigmatic bag lady (SHEILA HANCOCK) who warns them to steer clear of the one known as The Controller. “Well goodness me,” mutters the Doctor, “nobody’s going to control me, let alone at Christmas time.”
Suddenly the travellers are arrested and taken to a secret base where the Controller (ROBERT HARDY) discloses he is now ruler of Earth and has cancelled Christmas. “I suppose next you’ll be saying that Santa Claus doesn’t exist,” spits Victoria. “The girl has made a delightful suggestion!” drawls the Controller. Just then the Doctor pushes something over and in the ensuing confusion the travellers escape, blowing up the base on the way out. They celebrate at a newly-reopened discotheque. “All you need is love,” sings Jamie. “Ah yes – and perhaps a mince pie too,” chuckles the Doctor.
1972: NIGHTMARE AT CHRISTMAS
by Terrance Dicks
Dr Who, Jo Grant and the Brigadier are attending a peace conference between the world’s biggest superpowers that is being held at a stately home deep in the English countryside. Proceedings are suddenly derailed when the chair of the conference turns out to be Master (ROGER DELGADO).
He threatens to destroy the Earth unless he is able to broadcast a message on all the world’s television screens at 3pm on Christmas Day. “But he can’t do that,” splutters Jo, “that’s the time of the Queen’s Christmas Message!” “Good lord you’re right,” replies the Doctor.
A local landowner (PETER GILMORE) and his wife (GLENDA JACKSON) smuggle Jo out of the conference and take her to London, where she meets a BBC executive (GEOFFREY KEEN) who contacts the Queen’s secretary (DEREK NIMMO) and arranges for Her Majesty to be transported to a secret UNIT base deep in the English countryside for safety.
Meanwhile the Doctor solves a series of logic puzzles to short circuit the Master’s satellite relay system and broadcast his own message to the planet: “Don’t worry; the Master’s safely behind bars. The Queen will be with you shortly. Oh, Merry Christmas, b’the way!”
1978: CHRISTMAS EVE OF DESTRUCTION by Douglas Adams
Dr Who receives a call in the TARDIS from Chancellor of the Exchequer Denis Healey (DENIS HEALEY), who warns him that all the money markets on Earth have shut down spontaneously and the Bank of England has vanished. “Perhaps it’s fallen down the back of the sofa,” the Doctor quips. “Silly billy,” snaps the chancellor.
Materialising in London, the Doctor and Romana discover the chairman of the Bank of England (KENNETH WILLIAMS) acting most peculiarly, as if under some sort of mesmeric trance. The new head of UNIT, Brigadier De’Ath (GEOFFREY PALMER), appears similarly compromised, while a BBC newsreader (ANGELA RIPPON) starts speaking in tongues.
With the help of a Cambridge professor (PETER JONES), a junior civil servant in the Ministry of Prices and Consumer Protection (MICHAEL PALIN) and a Fine Fare checkout girl (TOYAH WILLCOX), the Doctor and Romana are able to deduce the Earth has slipped sideways through a time mirror and is reflecting back on itself.
All is restored to normal seconds before Christmas Day arrives and the Doctor gives Romana her present: a talking calculator, voiced by LARRY GRAYSON.
1982: THE NEXUS OF POSSIBILITIES
by Christopher H Bidmead
Dr Who, Tegan and Nyssa are sampling the delights of 20th century Florence, when suddenly the Master (ANTHONY AINLEY) arrives in his TARDIS disguised as a gondola. “So – you escaped from the Xeraphin Citadel on pre-historic Earth,” explains the Doctor.
“Yes, and I’ve returned to conquer the present-day Earth by infecting every Christmas tree on the planet with a wood-eating beetle that will commence ingestion when I press this button,” the Master laughs. “Soon my little pets will lay waste to your pathetic world.”
Two British tourists (KATE O’MARA and DENNIS WATERMAN) overhear the Master’s diabolical scheme and, enlisting the help of an Italian waiter (JIM DAVIDSON) and a local street entertainer (KEITH HARRIS), come to the rescue of the Doctor and his companions. Nyssa is taken ill and spends the rest of the adventure in the Tardis, while the Doctor and Tegan chase the Master round Florence before cornering him in a very brightly lit festive grotto.
The Master is squashed by a giant sleigh and the Doctor is forced to dress as Father Christmas and distribute presents to local children. “Good on yer Doc,” quips Tegan, “now how about some figgy pudding!”
1988: CHRISTMAS CARNIVAL 2088
by John Nathan-Turner and Andrew Cartmel
Dr Who is asked by his companion Ace to reveal his true identity. Just then an enormous explosion rips through the TARDIS and the pair are transported to Basingstoke in 2088 where a Christmas street party is taking place.
The Doctor meets the local mayor (PAUL SHANE) who invites him to declare the carnival underway, and the Doctor responds by performing a string of magic tricks. While a local band (BROTHER BEYOND) perform contemporary versions of Christmas carols, Ace befriends a streetwise scallywag (YVETTE FIELDING) with a dark secret: she has been possessed by rogue timelord Omega (VOICE: WINDSOR DAVIES).
Just then a phalanx of alien warriors led by the mysterious Ackack (HELEN SHAPIRO) arrives and lays waste to the carnival. The Doctor uses his magic powers to defeat everyone and save the day. “So *who* are you?” asks Ace as the pair wander off to find the TARDIS. “Exactly!” grins the Doctor.
We doff a bigger-on-the-inside-sized hat to those shows from the 1990s that weren’t Dr Who but which kind of were and which fans thought definitely were even though they weren’t.
TITLE: JUPITER MOON
PREMISE: With £6 million making it the biggest telly investment since BROOKSIDE things augured well for JUPITER MOON, but what we didn’t know was that the series had to make that cash stretch to seemingly quintillions of episodes. Billed as CROSSROADS in space the storylines had been worked out in advance with the assistance of the University of Birmingham’s Department of Space, although what a bunch of Brummie professors were doing commenting on whether Chantal de Grecay should get it on with Eliot Creasy or Finbow Lewis heaven knows.
DR WHO IT: Fans rejoice as 260 new episodes of Dr Who are announced. However spirits sink when it becomes clear that the whole thing is going to be set on that crappy Ice World used in the Sylvester McCoy Dr Who story Dragonfire. Roger Walker plays the Doctor with comic panache and the companion is played by that Brummie ginger head girl who appeared in Crossroads: King’s Oak. Tony Selby and Bonnie Langford return to play Glitz and Mel, who are now a husband and wife club-singing combo (although Glitz manufactures moonshine on the side).
PREMISE: File under “enjoyable hokum” in your Radio Times Lexicon Pack, BUGS was a conscious throw back to the action series of the 1960s and 1970s. Featuring Jesse Birdsall, the lady from the Bill and Craig McLaugh-in, Bugs was high tech gubbins with secret agents climbing up sides of buildings whilst having nonchalant clever-clever chats, and appearances by the odd pretend heavyweight guest artiste who wasn’t really heavyweight at all (aka Charles Dance) as a knowingly over-the-top baddy.
DR WHO IT: Given that Bugs seemed to be borne from vague recollections about some episode of THE AVENGERS that the producer’s son might or might not have seen, then if it had indeed been Doctor Who we could have expected some floppy haired knob in the title role dishing out jelly beans to all and sundry, whilst making relatively dull comments about “I’m here to save the Earth… again”. Difficult not to think that someone like Richard E Grant or worse still Tim Curry would have bagged the title role. The last story of the first season would have been a Cybermen v Daleks two-parter that would have been given all the sheen of a big-budget production but without any of the expense.
TITLE: GULLIVER’S TRAVELS (and those other lavish Channel 4 and Hallmark co-production things)
PREMISE: Take an existing tale preferably set in the past, stretch it out to loads of hours, chuck tons of money at it and employ Americans to play key British characters. Actually we thought GULLIVER’S TRAVELS was pretty good really, kind of like a less naughty Terry Gilliam production.
DR WHO IT: The Doctor is an aristocrat who hobnobs with the court of French Kings called Charles. His companions are a cat that has been turned into a harlequin suit wearing man by a witch and a drippy woman played by Mary Steenburgen, who teaches both the Doctor and the cat man about things like morality and so on. The TARDIS is an old Catholic confessional box and the Doctor travels through time by moving the hands on a marine chronometer like that one in Longitude. Jeremy Irons plays Doctor Who, and John Bird and Robert Hardy play Dickens-eque accountants in an episode set on a planet that looks a bit like the film Brazil.
PREMISE: Comics writer Neil Gaiman attempts to bring his extraordinary vision to the small screen. And if this wasn’t challenging enough he seems to decide to make it a bit harder for himself by shooting it on video instead of film and replacing a budget with supposedly evocative characters names such as Waterloo, Tufnell Park and Wapping.
DR WHO IT: The first adventure “Doctor Who and the Seven Sisters” sees the Doctor (played by John Hannah) forced to take on fearsome underground agent to the stars – Fulham Broadway (played by Clive Mantle). The Doctor is aided on his adventure by a pretty, pale goth girl and meets lots of fantastical characters such as grown men with fake whiskers and party make-up. In the end he defeats the baddy by wrestling a goat.
TITLE: COLD LAZARUS
PREMISE: Science fiction written by someone who had never watched or read any, and therefore thought all his hackneyed and dated concepts were somehow original and futuristic. Lots of half-vegetable vehicles and heads somehow kept alive in fishbowls.
DR WHO IT: The Doctor (played by someone who resembles Dennis Potter) travels to the year 1,000,000 AD and teams up with a gang of rebels to overthrow a dictatorship that seems to have been suspiciously modelled on Ming the Merciless’ regime. Once the Doctor manages to navigate his way through countless corridors and passed hover cars (stopping to consume a food pill on the way) he comes face-to-face with Davros (played by someone who looks like Dennis Potter with psoriasis) and a dalek (voiced by John Birt) that mimes along to ‘Teenager In Love’.
TITLE: CRIME TRAVELLER
PREMISE: Michael French and Chloe Annett solve low-level crimes committed by – in the main – comedy criminals through the use of Annett’s dad’s time machine or something. French’s role as a loveable rogue is light years from his role in EastEnders as a loveable rogue, but only in that he doesn’t have to shag Michelle Collins in this one.
DR WHO IT: An Earth bound Doctor Who (Jonathan Morris) is back working for UNIT, only this time his new boss (played by Miriam Margoyles) holds the keys to the TARDIS and only lets the Doctor use it when it is essential to the mission in hand. Cue countless tiresome scenes in which Morris is allowed to show off his comedic acting skills when trying to steal back the TARDIS keys. Each episode features a boring bit about the Blinovitch limitation effect delivered by the Doctor to his companion (played by Daniella Westbrook) whilst the two of them are hiding in a lock-up waiting that week’s criminal to show up.
TITLE: JONATHAN CREEK
PREMISE: Mind-boggling cryptic puzzles, fantastically tight plots and excellent guest artistes – we liked this programme.
DR WHO IT: Nicholas Lyndhurst is the Doctor, and although the universe may be in great peril, all he cares about is trying to work out how the Sontaran General (Steve Frost) seemingly managed to be in two places at the same time. In a later episode the Doctor is sure that an upright toilet seat holds the key to working out how the Master (played by Hugh Laurie) managed to escape from a time vortex that had been locked from the outside.
TITLE: INVASION: EARTH
PREMISE: Series writer Jed Mercurio claimed in 1998 that “a certain Timelord should be consigned to the dustbin” (is he talking about the Meddling Monk, Castellan or someone else? Not the Rani anyway, as we are pretty sure she is a Timelady). INVASION: EARTH was an attempt to do science fiction PROPERLY. That inevitably meant it was humourless and rather too macho. However, it was also the first post watershed BBC science fiction series since QUATERMASS.
DR WHO IT: The Doctor (played by Ahsen Bhatti) is caught wanking in a massive aircraft hangar by Field Marshall Lieutenant Angela Fierce (Geraldine James). The military then go around blowing everything up and everyone is in a bad mood all the time, particularly the Doctor who appears to despise humans: “You petty bipeds don’t understand the first thing about Quantum Physics!” Each episode ends bleakly as alien races are either entirely wiped out by an over zealous military, or the Doctor’s companion (played by various) is killed by an over zealous military, or (in the season finale) a lethal bacteria is inadvertently unleashed by an over zealous military that wipes out all mankind.
PREMISE: Rather good vampire drama (although perhaps too much moody lighting), ULTRAVIOLET was a bit like a science fiction EDGE OF DARKNESS, in that it was snappily directed and featured a government conspiracy. Just managed to pull off being a bit cool too.
DR WHO IT: Rather like what the Doctor Who production team were trying to do in the last couple of years of the original series’ run – self-consciously snappy dialogue and storylines that purposely debunk standard sci-fi stereotypes. The Doctor is played by James Nesbitt as a trench coat wearing cigarette smoking Timelord with a grudge, whilst Luisa Bradshaw-White plays his shag-around companion. In the first story the Doctor has to kill three people he likes because it makes for an emotionally dramatic story.
TITLE: RANDALL AND HOPKIRK (DECEASED)
PREMISE: A drippingly post-modern attempt to turn a ropey old telefantasy series into a run around for Reeves, Mortimer and their comedy chums. Still the special effects were ace and Tom Baker didn’t look too fat in it.
DR WHO IT: Mark Williams is the Doctor, a loveable doofus who has to be led through adventures by his far more intelligent companion (played by Arabella Weir). Adventures involve a battle against the giant sofa people and the Amusingly Named Aliens of the Obligatory Named Planet Zog. Also one adventure consists of a fantasy nightmare world created by a sinister evil genius, who in the end just turns out to be an over-intelligent kid from the year 4502.
Yes, this is where the latest morsels of gossip and speculation about the next series of Dr Who are subject to a spot of heat convection and/or electric filaments in an effort to provide a tasty post-prandial or pre-supper fork treat. And then we check to see whether the latest Who rumours are true or a load of shite.
1) The first words of Dr Who Matt Smith in his first proper episode as Dr Who are: “This never happened to the other fellow”.
TV CREAM DR WHO CONSUMER UNIT SAYS: These were to have been the first words Matt Smith uttered in his debut episode, until the production team discovered a clause in Russell T Davies’s contract that gave him the right to pen the inaugural dialogue that was to launch the show in a bright, bold new direction. As such Matt Smith’s first line is to be: “No! Not the mind probe!”
2) A competition is being held for viewers of Blue Peter to come up with a sentence to be used by the BBC1 continuity announcer to introduce the first episode of the next series.
TV CREAM DR WHO CONSUMER UNIT SAYS: A competition is being held, but it is for listeners of Terry Wogan’s new radio show, Terry Wogan’s Sunday Brunch, and will be launched live on Radio 2 on 21st February when Matt Smith “materialises” unexpectedly during some crosstalk about Children in Need and venison.
3) The episode of the next series of Dr Who that falls in the week of the general election will feature a special insert showing the Doctor stepping out of a polling booth and whispering to his companion, “I voted for the one with two hearts”.
TV CREAM DR WHO CONSUMER UNIT SAYS: Not true. There is nobody standing in the general election with two hearts. Nor one, for that matter (SATIRE).
4) The next series of Dr Who will feature a sequence involving Gerald Flood popping into an Indian restaurant for a meal with the Doctor, only to confess “I can never decide what to have – I’m a bit of a korma Kamelion”.
TV CREAM DR WHO CONSUMER UNIT SAYS: Again, not true. The Doctor will go into an Indian restaurant with Julia Sawalha, only for the latter to confess: “I should never have come, but you press ganged me into it”.
5) In the final episode of the next series, an effigy of Russell T Davies can clearly be seen in the back of one shot, being pissed on by a drunken Scotsman.
TV CREAM DR WHO CONSUMER UNIT: This is a rumour being put about by a barrowman* of former Dr Who Magazine writers. In the final episode of the next series, Matt Smith regenerates into Meera Syal.
*The collective noun for a group of sci-fi magazine employees
At a press conference earlier today, Curtis unveiled the identity of the star who will be making a guest appearance in the episode.
Confounding those who were predicting a cameo from the likes of Martine McCutcheon, Bill Nighy, Simon Callow, Bill Nighy or Bill Nighy, the lead singer of 1980s rock band U2 is to feature in the story. He will be playing himself.
Bono, 62, said: “The Doctor is a wily bastard, and I’ve been wanting to screw him over for many years. When he arrives at a U2 concert, I get Edge [sic] to terrorise him with one of his endlessly echoing guitar riffs, then trap him inside a giant lemon.”
Laughing, Curtis corrected his friend by telling journalists the musician would be “turning up for only a couple of minutes” to deliver “a message about third world debt”. The episode will end with an on-screen caption inviting viewers to “make poverty history” and a voiceover from Emma Freud giving details of a number to call to pledge donations.
Curtis was reticent about other details concerning his script.
He did disclose the title: The Doctor’s Great Big Utterly Massive Adventure (Part Fifteen…Allegedly).
But he was tight-lipped about the location and the identity of the “monster” with which the Doctor and his companion will do battle.
“To do that would be more than my job’s worth,” Curtis chuckled, before dematerialising up his own arse.
For the first time in a while, two consecutive episodes, so it’s a completely different line-up to the last time and some belated debuts for Ian Dury and Sham 69 who we’d have otherwise seen two weeks ago, in a classic Pops juxtaposition with another Cilla flop and the first appearance of a record that, even skipping all the Savile and Travis episodes, you’re going to hear a hell of lot over the next few months.