More musings on Doctor Who and national identity from me have been published at John Connors's Time Lines blog. I've written an introduction with more ideas at The Event Library, and the posts themselves are available at part two and part three.
I'm about to fly south (on wheels) for the rest of the winter, but first, some links:

Where will we live?
James Meek surveys the background to the current British housing crisis and looks at the competing interests making a bad situation worse today, in the London Review of Books

2015: An Ugly Stramash
The post-independence vote scenarios which Westminster isn't thinking much about, but Scotland is. With thanks to [livejournal.com profile] nwhyte

Doctor Who at the Lord Mayor's Show, 1981
A brief clip from the BBC coverage of the Lord Mayor (of London)'s Show, voiced by Eric Robson, is followed by some of Kevin Davies's own recording of Peter Davison's first public appearance in costume as the Doctor, accompanied by what we'd now call cosplaying fans, but didn't then.
A public service announcement for followers of Doctor Who non-fiction and broadcasting history: the much-anticipated biography JN-T: The Life and Scandalous Times of John Nathan-Turner by Richard Marson has changed publishers. It will no longer be published by Fantom, but by Miwk. Fantom are in the process of refunding all pre-orders made through them, and pre-ordering is underway from Miwk; the book will be published in May this year, rather than April. Miwk have also set up a Facebook page for the book.
Over here can be found my collected thoughts (without a recent rewatching, I admit) on Resurrection of the Daleks, Peter Davison's Doctor's only outing with the positronic pepperpots.

Meanwhile, [personal profile] miss_s_b told me that the Verity Podcast was worth following, and she was right. Considered discussion on Doctor Who from an all-female panel of informed commentators. Here's episode two, 'This one goes to Eleven'.
Signs and signifiers across nearly twenty-nine years:

A cry of "old skool!" as the new Cybermen appear, from one who was not born when Earthshock was first broadcast (I am a relatively senior citizen at these gatherings), is a remarkable indicator of how much time (chronological and cultural) has passed since Earthshock was broadcast. The look of the 1982 Cybermen was widely hailed at the time as modern, cutting-edge, restoring Doctor Who to the forefront of respectable SF design. The next year, Philip Purser (reviewing The Five Doctors in The Daily Telegraph) thought that the 1980s Cybermen looked as though they were wearing tinfoil. Purser's view has probably prevailed. The fighter-pilot Cybersuits, however baggy and plainly vulnerable they might seem, were not only an influence on the look of Star Trek's Borg, but given that Earthshock was broadcast on the eve of the Falklands War serendipitously anticipated the militarily triumphalist mood that gripped the Conservative sectors of the British media later in 1982. The depiction of 'Britain 2010' by The Lenny Henry Show (1985) as the domain of the blonde-wigged Cyberman Thatchos was perhaps sharper than the makers knew.
sir_guinglain: (Tom)
( Oct. 9th, 2010 02:21 am)
I've just finished reading Matthew Waterhouse's memoir of his Doctor Who experiences, Blue Box Boy. It's a mixed bag, probably most candid and self-critical when dealing with the author's childhood and adolescence, which is depicted as Doctor Who-obsessed to a degree which disturbs even this author. Despite Waterhouse being eight years older than me, there are many parallels, though I'd never have bought box after box of Weetabix and buried the cereal itself in leaf mould while searching for the elusive Sarah Jane Smith card in the box itself. His discovery of copies of Eagle and TV 21 abandoned by older siblings reminds me of an article in the Look-in Television Annual published in 1976, which left me in no doubt that I should have been born a decade earlier to enjoy TV 21 as it was published, though now I know that several Look-in staffers had worked on the earlier title and regarded it with affection.

The core of the book is Waterhouse's period as an actor on Doctor Who, plucked from a post-school stint in one of the BBC's cuttings libraries. Throughout, the reader is left conscious of how marginal Doctor Who was as an acting job in the early 1980s. Sarah Sutton's encounter with a former dance school friend who has joined Top of the Pops's Legs & Co. lodges in the memory. Additionally, Matthew's fanhood haunts him through the book, as Doctor Who personnel are baffled and horrified by its rising fandom. Paul Darrow makes several appearances, as Waterhouse remembers him often lunching with the Doctor Who companions when Doctor Who season nineteen and Blake's 7 series D. Plunged into the wash of the new series when invited to take part in DVD commentaries and convention signings, Waterhouse's final chapter finds him in the draughty halls of Milton Keynes, with Lalla Ward, Sarah Sutton and himself stabbing their marker pens into desks as long queues of new series fans wait to meet latterday Dalek operator Barnaby Edwards. In the meantime convention money has allowed Matthew to discover America, or at least sleep on the streets of New York at night, meeting Benny Goodman in a bar and fobbing off muggers with change rather than hand over his convention earnings.

Two decades after he joined Doctor Who, Waterhouse has few recriminations to make and is philosophical about his career, though this is not to say he is not occasionally catty, particularly about fans (who are often depicted in wild generalizations which nevertheless are possessed of some truth) and about BBC staffers of what's now a long-vanished age. He often chooses to describe his own feelings - as every reviewer has noted, in the third person - and leaves wider contextualization to the reader, depending on their own experience. This is part of what detaches private memoir from public autobiography: the personal as impacting on the personal, the author caught in events as much as or more than they shape them. Perhaps more than anything this is book is for anyone who, as Matthew Waterhouse says with characteristic self-deprecation, has spent too much time living in their own head.
After the intelligent and sensitively-written (if not performed - see Lynda Baron) Enlightenment, the 1983 season of Doctor Who concluded (prematurely) with The King's Demons. After watching it this evening with DSoc, I wondered how it could have reached the screen. Tegan, after being written sympathetically in Enlightenment, degenerates into a one-note whining character over whose ignorance the Doctor can gloat, though Peter Davison does his best to depart from this reading of the script, and Janet Fielding is as spirited as she can be with such poor material. It's long been a weakness of this story that Turlough is marginalised early on, and serves no purpose other than to act as the eyes of the viewer in the dungeon, which makes him redundant as we have the camera to see what is going on. His farewell to the Master "Goodbye, whoever you are!" sums up the failure of the script to involve him in the action.

The supporting characters' motivations flip-flop all over the place, and the dialogue competes for floridity with that in the John Prebble episodes of The Borgias. The location filming is well-managed, though, and the interior sets good, though the medieval costumes look as if they were assembled from multi-period stock - still, better than latterday Robin Hood.

I'm probably being unjustly negative and will be reminded of the story's good points in the comments. I just found myself wondering what script editor Eric Saward was doing during this story, as it seems to belong to a different series altogether than its predecessor and successor (The Five Doctors) beyond the changes of setting and tone that one expects from Doctor Who.
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