...The Avengers and Doctor Who keeping me company while I work.

The Avengers: Man With Two Shadows
First shown 12 October 1963 )

Doctor Who: The Last Adventure
Released 17 August 2015, so this review's content probably deserves a spoiler warning )
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.
I've not much to add to what I wrote about this story back in 2008 when a smaller number of people marathoned the season compared with those who did so today. I came in during part eight, in time to see the breathtaking erasure of Peri and her replacement with a humanised and feminised Kiv. Nicola Bryant's performances in these scenes are among her best, though Peri's apparent fate is too bleak for that of a Doctor Who companion. Not even Russell T Davies went as far as to erase an entire personality, and John Nathan-Turner was probably right to reverse Peri's death in dialogue, though the electronic pink heart in which she and Yrcanos are enveloped in part fourteen is far, far too much. The Vervoid story won much more attention this time, though as the almost-banned cover of DWM 323 had been mentioned (by me in one of my more ribald moments) the humour assumed a bluer hue than I previously remembered.

The case remains, for me, that the most interesting character in (Terror of) The Vervoids/The Ultimate Foe/parts nine to twelve is Ruth Baxter, and she remains in her coffin and is used for shock value only. There is a glimmer of how the sixth Doctor might have developed, liberated from Eric Saward's script-editing as he now was, but Pip and Jane Baker largely deliver a Doctor reacting to public criticism - "More a sort of clown, actually." Mel asks the Doctor whether all Time Lords speak in such an antediluvian manner, which either exposes Pip and Jane's failure to recognise how cumbersome and antiquated their own writing style was, or admits their inability or unwillingness to do anything about it.
To show signs of being likeable in Attack of the Cybermen is to risk being turned into a Cyberman. The affable sewer workers encountered in the first scene take their places quickly in conversion cabinets. The Doctor is distant and abrasive and Peri complaining and stupid by turns. I'm not sure whether the fact the only character I warmed to in part one of the story was the Cyberleader proves or undermines my first sentence.

Part two is potentially more interesting: there is a clash in design between a mid-1980s Top of the Pops style and a fragile gothic from which could have driven the episode had it been more carefully expressed. As it is one is left with a sense of futility - Bates and Stratton and Griffiths, weighed down by heavy dialogue, fail to take the Cybermen time vessel; the Doctor fails to do very much except get stuck in a room, be slow on the uptake and fail to understand Lytton's plan; the Halley's Comet subplot is sidelined; the Cryons talk slowly and flatly; every piece of exposition seems to be repeated at least twice.

Perhaps these reactions are too obviously shaped by over a quarter-century of recriminations concerning falling ratings, disputed authorship, the alleged unrealistic and outdated aspirations of the producer. For a generation, the merit of the 1985 season of Doctor Who is entangled with the cancellation crisis which emerged in the last week of February, attended by a sense of relentless inevitability.
sir_guinglain: (ArgueMainly)
( Nov. 7th, 2010 06:20 pm)
My project to upload content from the archives of the Oxford University Doctor Who Society magazine continues. Here's an article from 1990 reviewing Colin Baker's time as the Doctor, 'Sixth of One'.
I spent this evening (with some usual suspects) seeing Colin Baker essay Detective Chief Inspector Morse in Alma Cullen's Colin Dexter-authorised play The House of Ghosts at the New Theatre (which some of those on my flist will remember as the Apollo) in Oxford. Alma Cullen is an experienced television Morse hand and delivers a play (it's not an adaptation of a Dexter story) with beats familiar to television viewers: the Oxford setting, connections with university academics, former students returning to the university, all of whom are Morse's college contemporaries, and who are connected to the murder. As for Morse's latest romantic interest...

The staging was straightforward but effectively suggested theatre, chapel, college room and office. Be careful where you look, if you go, if you don't like torches being shone in your eyes, effective though it was.

Colin Baker's Morse (the term 'Inspector Morse' was absent from the programme and publicity, presumably it's a trademark of the ITV series) was at first less of a presence than one imagines John Thaw's would have been. One is not comparing like with like, of course. Colin Baker brings in some Thawesque mannerisms but as the play unfolds proves very good at depicting a Morse unhappily triangulated between competing loyalties, his devotion to solving puzzles, and his own tenuous sense of self-worth. Deliberately and curiously nostalgic - set in 1987, most of the actors playing fortysomethings seemed to be much older, reminiscent of the 1970 version of The Railway Children - I think most of the audience agreed that it was worthy of the Barrington Pheloung theme music at the end.
For many Doctor Who fans in the 1980s, the worst crisis the series faced that decade was the eighteen-month suspension announced in February 1985. The second was the dismissal of Colin Baker which broke in December 1986. Reproduced below (it'll take a few clicks to get through to the legible files) are three pages from the Doctor Who Appreciation Society's Celestial Toyroom which express a lot of the astonishment and anger fans felt at the time, as well as general disappointment with much of season 23.

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