Doctor Who survived its end of history moment. The last three years of its first run saw a refocusing on the postwar Britain of paternalist, class-led social democracy not as the present or near future, but as the past just gone. The pastiche of Paradise Towers is drawn from the 1970s with its acknowledgements of J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise and Monty Python’s Flying Circus’s architect sketch, but collides with a design aesthetic which doesn’t know how to navigate the fashions of the 1980s let alone reconcile them with the script, and consequently any statement on society which Paradise Towers makes is stifled. The first story to explicitly explore this new hinterland of the newly-lost present with some success is Delta and the Bannermen.

For more in this vein read the fourth part of my look at Doctor Who and British national identity, over at John Connors's Time Lines blog.
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...
Between sessions of evidence-gathering for the conference paper I'm delivering later in the week, I've been catching up on the Doctor Who DVD backlog with small doses of Dragonfire. I voted this top in the season polls in 1987, and can still see why, as there is a better-defined sense of threat in this story than in its three season 24 siblings, and a credible villain in Edward Peel's Kane. Realisation is still very erratic, though; I'd not appreciated how far the characters are dependent upon sharing the knowledge of the author and viewer about where the others are until reading Paul Scoones's production notes, for example. The making of... documentary at least gives the director freedom to admit that he didn't really pay attention to the logic of the story, hence the nonsensical visuals including the Doctor's pointless climb over a rail so he can dangle over a sheer drop at the end of part one, there being no sign of the ledge he was apparently trying to reach... There is a lot of inconsistency in the line delivery, too, especially from Sylvester McCoy who sometimes seems to need to work too hard on his Doctor. Sophie Aldred is great when having to confront Kane or his followers but at other times she seems to be under instruction to ham things up more - the dreaded children's programme sensibility mentioned by writer Ian Briggs and Chris Clough in the documentary, which was antipathetic to the spirit of Doctor Who but seen as a necessary part of the placation of hostile head of drama Jonathan Powell. A word of praise though for the everyman mercenaries McLuhan and Bazin, played by Stephanie Fayerman and Stuart Organ; their naturalistic playing of the 'ANT hunt' in part three is welcome amidst the histrionics elsewhere. Their deaths acquire power consequential upon their dogged determination to get their job done, despite having no particular pride or interest in the task in hand.
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.
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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