I was asked last week to review The Power of the Daleks for Timelines, the Doctor Who blog of longstanding fan and prolific fanzine editor John Connors, which is worth checking out for its reviews and its material from John's rich archive of fan memories such as convention reviews and photographs from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. The review was published a few hours ago and can be found here.

However, when preparing the link from my own review blog, The Event Library, I realised I'd not mentioned Patrick Troughton specifically, which was something of an omission when covering Troughton's first story. So there can be found a couple of paragraphs on Troughton at that post.
The first part of a series of musings on Doctor Who and British identity, at John Connors's Timelines blog, originally commissioned by John for the fanzine Plaything of Sutekh which he co-edited with Richard Farrell. A short introduction can be found at The Event Library, too.
I've been up finishing a Doctor Who book review which I'll link to when it's published... but I've not been paying enough attention to Alex and Richard and tbeir Doctor Who 52. So here, Richard says a lot of things about The Abominable Snowmen which change my perspective on the story.
Veteran performer Brian Blessed has told the Radio Times this week that he was offered the lead role in Doctor Who after he finished his run in Z Cars at the end of 1965. If this is not a drastic misremembering of the negotiations in the early 1990s revealed in issue 3 of Richard Bignell's Nothing at the End of the Lane, which would have seen Blessed succeeding Sylvester McCoy in the first instalment of an independently-produced Doctor Who series, then this means Blessed was sounded out twice at different stages of his career, once when he was best-known as bluff but sometimes naive 'ted in a copper's uniform' PC 'Fancy' Smith in Z Cars, and once when his larger-than-life persona known from Vultan in Flash Gordon and Richard IV in The Black Adder was more fully realised. Intriguingly, if the dates are right, the earlier offer might have been made in the early stages of attempts to replace William Hartnell, when John Wiles was still producer of Doctor Who and not Innes Lloyd, when it was intended that Hartnell's last story would be The Celestial Toymaker. Imagine Blessed dealing with 'Mr Wearp' in The Gunfighters, or probably fighting off Doc Holliday in the dentist's chair...
For reasons clear to anyone who studies his Twitter feed and interactions, veteran Doctor Who fan Ian Levine is keen to make it known that this short series of articles published in DWB in 1992 is available to read online. It's been supplemented and superseded by other work, such as Richard Molesworth's DWM articles and the two editions of his book Wiped published by Telos, and by the ongoing work by the BroaDWcast site, but it's still readable and tells Levine's side of the story as well as convey how horrified first-generation Doctor Who fandom was when they learned that episodes which they often remembered from childhood and which they imagined survived at some BBC vault no longer existed, with anecdotes of early fandom and the dawn of home video.
Doctor Who: The Recovered Episodes, III

I've at last completed my review of The Web of Fear; feverishness can be attributed to my cold. It can be found over at The Event Library.
Doctor Who: The Recovered Episodes II

First thoughts )

ETA: Slightly amended version in another place.
I've added a Roman numeral to this as I expect I'll have more to say at a later date; but I'm in the process of downloading both stories from iTunes (pernicious system in many ways, but I'm curious to see these stories). For Doctor Who fans of my generation the knowledge that so many episodes from the 1960s were missing was infuriating. Most of us now know that Doctor Who did rather well compared to most other BBC television series from the period. Now, of course, it's done better, and The Enemy of the World can be enjoyed in full, and The Web of Fear has gone from missing episodes 2-6 of 6 to only missing episode 3 of 6. This is fantastic news, and it's been very well-managed.

Doctor Who Magazine, despite their apparent denials, have known for some time, as demonstrated by the magazine covers Debbie Watling and Frazer Hines are brandishing on DWM's new website; but one only needs to do a Google News search for the Nigerian city of Jos, where the episodes were found, to see why the presence of valuable BBC material there might have needed to be kept quiet. I suspect we won't have a full account of the discoveries for some time, if ever, though hero of the hour, Philip Morris, has a video up as part of BBC Worldwide's YouTube package of material related to the recoveries.

So: new Patrick Troughton to enjoy, completing one story in which we see Patrick Troughton's performance as dictator Salamander, and almost completing another including Nicholas Courtney's next-to-first appearance as Lethbridge-Stewart - not yet the Brigadier, but one story away from promotion. I might just manage an episode before bed...

ETA: "You're the most wonderful and marvellous man that's ever dropped out of the sky" will become a new favourite much-quoted line, I'm sure...
"...the total of missing episodes now stands at 106. The fact that so much of Doctor Who exists is a testament not only to fans’ determination but to the incompetence of the BBC; not only could they not manage to keep a proper archive, they couldn’t even manage to throw things away."

Jonathan Morris's Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition introduction on how the BBC manage not to have a complete run of Doctor Who (though it's fared better than most BBC drama series and serials of the 1960s) is useful background for those interested in the subject and can be found on his blog; much, much more on the matter can be found in Richard Molesworth's Wiped, now in its second edition (Prestatyn: Telos, 2013).
Richard Bignell's second published collection of unproduced Doctor Who scripts is The Prison in Space by Dick Sharples, commissioned by producer Peter Bryant and script editor Derrick Sherwin for the 1968/69 season. It was to have followed The Invasion on screen, but was abandoned not long before recording was to begin, with a director already appointed (David Maloney), casting having begun and costume and set design in progress. The Krotons replaced it.

From these scripts it's not difficult to see why The Prison in Space was dropped. The first episode has an uncanny otherness to it which had echoes of the earlier years of Doctor Who as produced by Verity Lambert and John Wiles, before Innes Lloyd (mistakenly credited as the producer of this story on the back cover blurb) moved towards a less reflective monster-of-the-week action-drama format. The garden in which most of the first episode is set is easy to visualize along the lines of the zoological section in The Ark, and the idea of a society where universal female suffrage has led to the end of war but also the redundancy and subjection of men appears intended to ask some light-hearted but searching questions of conventional gender roles. Unfortunately the serial does not deliver, because it is unable and unwilling to depart from comic stereotypes and the reinforcement of the chauvinist attitudes of its period. It is heavily reliant on familiar comic types, from the hapless working-class hero who somehow gets the girl, to the grotesquely libidinous older woman. It includes some genuine horror: depending on how it was executed, the mechanical brainwashing of Zoe in the 'Silver Maiden' could have traumatized child viewers. Zoe's conditioning, though, is notoriously undone by Jamie making good his threat to 'larrup' Zoe from The Wheel in Space, subjecting her to "A (REALLY HARD) SPANKING", undermining the drama and credibility of what has gone before.

There are other uneasinesses too. The prospects of the Doctor using technology stolen from the Dominators a few stories before to copy a method of mind control used by the Cybermen in The Invasion and then threaten the population of Earth with nerve gas in order to win male suffrage are highly distasteful to say the least. The 'dolly-guards' in their black microskirts and cleavage-displaying uniforms, together with Jamie himself swapping kilt for microskirt as he drags up, help confirm the sort of prejudices which Doctor Who, with its mission to broaden the horizons of the Saturday teatime audience, was set up to overcome.

The Prison in Space has good moments - I agree with Jonathan Morris, who reviews the story in one of the appendices, that Patrick Troughton would have excelled in the scene where the Doctor uses copper wire to build an abstract sculpture as part of his 'occupational therapy' while imprisoned - and might have quietly made some impact on Doctor Who lore, with the Doctor putting himself into suspended animation for part of one episode as he would with frequency in the 1970s. Other appendices include Brian Hayles's storyline for his first attempt at a second Ice Warrior story, The Lords of the Red Planet, and Andrew Pixley's summary of the chaotic production history of season six. The scriptbook of The Prison in Space is a valuable exercise in the documentation of Doctor Who history and reveals much about the attitudes of those who were making it at the end of the 1960s; the story itself is a failed experiment whose failure to reach the screen surely had beneficial effects on Doctor Who's longevity.
sir_guinglain: (Troughton)
( Oct. 22nd, 2011 11:57 pm)
The publishers of that most infrequent but most research-intensive of Doctor Who fanzines, Nothing at the End of the Lane, have a second in their series of books of untransmitted scripts imminent. This will be The Prison in Space by Dick Sharples, which until very late in the day was intended to be the fourth story in the 1968/69 season, its slot eventually being filled by The Krotons. It is notorious for its idea of a planet dominated by leather-clad women, not far from the Two Ronnies serial from their 1980 season, The Worm That Turned, but presumably without lots of men in frocks and Diana Dors ruling from Barbara Castle. This celebration of misogyny would not have been Doctor Who's finest hour, if reports are true, though publication of the script will . The cover illustration is suitably lurid, and can be found at the artist's Deviantart page.
I acquired the reconstruction of this story from Loose Cannon a few months ago, but have taken my time in watching it. Two episodes in, Fury from the Deep is living up to expectations. Safe at unconsequential teatime, Victor Pemberton's writing digs at the contradictions in the series format at this time while making the most of its limitations. This base under siege is threatened from within and without, and headed by the most credibly ill-tempered of a series of commanders. Robson's aggression would have been very familiar to the post-war generation; a member of one elite, the practical men who had worked their way up to the top by hard work and applied experience, fearing that he would be undermined and eclipsed by the new officer class of university men, issuing with schoolroom learning from an ever-expanding sector to take up places in the technocracy. As if this wasn't enough, Robson's authority is compromised by diplomatic exigencies: Euro Sea Gas is not simply a British exercise, and Robson has to cope with the interventions of the Dutch representative Van Lutyens. The craggy-featured Victor Maddern, a veteran of merchant and royal navies, looks as if he knows the type well.

Fury from the Deep is a ghost story for the technological age. There is knocking in the pipes; friends not seen for a long time make contact, but talk in whispers like ghosts. In a series where possession is usually instantaneous, Maggie Harris's battle with the seaweed's influence has some power, and her subjection by technicians from her husbands' employers is subversive for children (if Laurel and Hardy, of whom Pemberton is a fan, were as familiar to children in 1968 as they were in the 1970s) and their parents, accustomed to having engineers visit (as Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles note in volume two of About Time) from the gas boards to install or upgrade supply; the model society envisaged by futurologists of the time may well have included regular intervention by gadget-wielding engineers from benevolent authorities.

Juxtaposed against the intelligent, responsible professionals, from the aggressive to the conciliatory to the doggedly diligent, are the three regulars: wide-eyed children set among the grown-ups to ask the questions which have been socialised out of the guest characters' brains, and necessarily so. The threat of the foam is softened by having Jamie and the Doctor throw Victoria into it early on, but I expect most of those watching soon forgot that scene, particularly after the three playmates were shot by the gas project's security devices. Victoria does not do too badly; she proves a dab hand with a hairpin, despite Jamie's mocking, and it's not her fault the next lock she meets is beyond her.
Those of you who follow my Doctor Who reviews will remember that detailed comments on The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood were withheld as they were promised to fanzine This Way Up. Issue 28 is now published by editor John Connors and can be downloaded here. Lots of good stuff, including reviews of the second half of the most recent series of Doctor Who plus a thematic and strategic overview of the season, a survey of film adaptations of the fiction of Richard Matheson, a look at recent developments in Heroes and the 2005 live broadcast of The Quatermass Experiment starring Jason Flemyng, Indira Varma, David Tennant and Mark Gatiss. Classic Doctor Who is covered too, with reviews of The Dominators and Silver Nemesis.
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